Membrane interactions of non-membrane targeting antibiotics: The case of aminoglycosides, macrolides, and fluoroquinolones Academic Article uri icon

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  • Numerous antibiotics are known to target intracellular pathways, such as protein translation or DNA replication. Membrane transporters typically regulate drug uptake; however, little is known about direct interactions between these antibiotics and the cell membranes. Here, we studied the interactions between different aminoglycosides (kanamycin, gentamicin, streptomycin, neomycin), macrolides (azithromycin, clarithromycin, erythromycin), and fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin) with bacterial membrane mimics to determine drug partitioning and potential drug-induced membrane disruption. The antibiotics' exact location in the bilayers and their effect on membrane thickness and fluidity were determined from high-resolution X-ray diffraction. While the antibiotics did not change membrane thickness at low (1:100 drug/lipid) or high (1:10 drug/lipid) concentrations, they were found to increase membrane disorder in a dose-dependent manner. However, no membrane damage, such as membrane disruption or pore formation, was observed for any of the antibiotics. To note, all antibiotics partitioned into the lipid head groups, while macrolides and fluoroquinolones also partitioned into the bilayer core. The results suggest that the bacterial membrane is relatively inert in the direct mechanisms of actions of these antibiotics.


  • Khondker, Adree
  • Bider, Renée-Claude
  • Passos-Gastaldo, Isabella
  • Wright, Gerard D
  • Rheinstadter, Maikel

publication date

  • January 2021