Thioridazine and chlorpromazine inhibition of ethidium bromide efflux in Mycobacterium avium and Mycobacterium smegmatis

Liliana Rodrigues, Dirk Wagner, Miguel Viveiros, Daniela Sampaio, Isabel Couto, Martina Vavra, Winfried V. Kern, Leonard Amaral

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109 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Therapy of AIDS patients infected with Mycobacterium avium is problematic due to its intrinsic resistance to antibiotics. We have characterized the efflux pump activity of M. avium wild-type strain through an automated fluorometric method and correlated it with intrinsic resistance to antibiotics. Methods: M. avium ATCC 25291T and Mycobacterium smegmatis mc2155 were evaluated for accumulation and efflux of ethidium bromide in the presence or absence of the efflux pump inhibitors (EPIs) thioridazine, chlorpromazine, verapamil and the proton uncoupler carbonyl cyanide m -chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP). For this purpose, a new automated fluorometric method was used that separately assesses accumulation and extrusion of ethidium bromide. Results: The automated fluorometric method described in this paper allowed the detection and quantification of ethidium bromide transport across M. avium and M. smegmatis cell walls. Accumulation of ethidium bromide was found to be temperature-dependent and significantly increased by EPIs thioridazine, chlorpromazine, verapamil and CCCP in a concentration-dependent manner. Efflux of ethidium bromide under optimum conditions of temperature and glucose is inhibited by the above agents. At half their intrinsic MICs, both thioridazine and chlorpromazine, similarly to verapamil and CCCP, significantly increased the susceptibility of M. avium to erythromycin, suggesting an effect upon an efflux pump with ethidium bromide and erythromycin as substrates. A similar effect was observed for M. smegmatis with verapamil only. Conclusions: M. avium and M. smegmatis intrinsic resistance is affected by EPIs such as thioridazine or chlorpromazine, an effect that might be important in research and development of new, more effective antimycobacterial therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1076-1082
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2008


  • Automated fluorometric method
  • Efflux pump inhibitors
  • Efflux pumps
  • Mycobacteria
  • Phenothiazines


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