Journal Article

Cationic lipids and surfactants as antifungal agents: mode of action

Débora B. Vieira and Ana M. Carmona-Ribeiro

in Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

Published on behalf of British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

Volume 58, issue 4, pages 760-767
Published in print October 2006 | ISSN: 0305-7453
Published online August 2006 | e-ISSN: 1460-2091 | DOI:
Cationic lipids and surfactants as antifungal agents: mode of action

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  • Medical Oncology
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Objectives: To determine the mechanism of antimicrobial action for cationic lipid dioctadecyldimethylammonium bromide (DODAB) and hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) against Candida albicans.

Methods: Determination of DODAB or CTAB adsorption isotherms; cell viability; cell electrophoretic mobility (EM); and leakage of small phosphorylated compounds, proteins or DNA from fungus or haemoglobin from erythrocytes.

Results: High affinity isotherms for CTAB and DODAB adsorption onto fungus cells (108 cfu/mL) yield limiting adsorption at 7.8 and 3.7 × 109 molecules per cell, respectively. Negatively charged C. albicans cells (106 cfu/mL) remain viable whereas positively charged ones die. At 0.3 mM CTAB or 0.01 mM DODAB, EM is zero and fungus viability is 50%. Cells start to die at submicellar CTAB concentrations and fungus lysis does not play a significant role in the mechanism of antifungal action. Over 0.1–10 mM CTAB or DODAB, there is no leakage of tested compounds from C. albicans cells despite the low cell viability. In contrast to the fungus, under isotonic conditions, cationic amphiphiles induce haemolysis over a range of low DODAB (>0.01 mM) and CTAB (>0.001 mM) concentrations.

Conclusions: The critical phenomenon determining antifungal effect of cationic surfactants and lipids is not cell lysis but rather the change of cell surface charge from negative to positive.

Keywords: Candida albicans; dioctadecyldimethylammonium bromide; hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide; CTAB; adsorption; cell charge; lysis; antifungal activity

Journal Article.  3916 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medical Oncology ; Critical Care

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