Ciclopirox olamine treatment affects the expression pattern of Candida albicans genes encoding virulence factors, iron metabolism proteins, and drug resistance factors

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2003 Jun;47(6):1805-17. doi: 10.1128/AAC.47.6.1805-1817.2003.


The hydroxypyridone ciclopirox olamine belongs to the antimycotic drugs used for the treatment of superficial mycoses. In contrast to the azoles and other antimycotic drugs, its specific mode of action is only poorly understood. To investigate the mode of action of ciclopirox olamine on fungal viability, pathogenicity, and drug resistance, we examined the expression patterns of 47 Candida albicans genes in cells grown in the presence of a subinhibitory concentration (0.6 micro g/ml) of ciclopirox olamine by reverse transcription-PCR. In addition, we used suppression-subtractive hybridization to further identify genes that are up-regulated in the presence of ciclopirox olamine. The expression of essential genes such as ACT1 was not significantly modified in cells exposed to ciclopirox olamine. Most putative and known virulence genes such as genes encoding secreted proteinases or lipases had no or only moderately reduced expression levels. In contrast, exposure of cells to ciclopirox olamine led to a distinct up- or down-regulation of genes encoding iron permeases or transporters (FTR1, FTR2, FTH1), a copper permease (CCC2), an iron reductase (CFL1), and a siderophore transporter (SIT1); these effects resembled those found under iron-limited conditions. Addition of FeCl(3) to ciclopirox olamine-treated cells reversed the effect of the drug. Addition of the iron chelator bipyridine to the growth medium induced similar patterns of expression of distinct iron-regulated genes (FTR1, FTR2). While serum-induced yeast-to-hyphal phase transition of C. albicans was not affected in ciclopirox olamine-treated cells in the presence of subinhibitory conditions, a dramatic increase in sensitivity to oxidative stress was noted, which may indicate the reduced activities of iron-containing gene products responsible for detoxification. Although the Candida drug resistance genes CDR1 and CDR2 were up-regulated, no change in resistance or increased tolerance could be observed even after an incubation period of 6 months. This was in contrast to control experiments with fluconazole, in which the MICs for cells incubated with this drug had noticeably increased after 2 months. These data support the view that the antifungal activity of ciclopirox olamine may at least be partially caused by iron limitation. Furthermore, neither the expression of certain multiple-drug resistance genes nor other resistance mechanisms caused C. albicans resistance to this drug even after long-term exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2,2'-Dipyridyl / pharmacology
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Candida albicans / drug effects*
  • Candida albicans / genetics*
  • Candida albicans / metabolism
  • Chlorides
  • Ciclopirox
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Drug Interactions
  • Ferric Compounds / pharmacology
  • Fluconazole / pharmacology
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal / drug effects*
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Chelating Agents / pharmacology
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Pyridones / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Pyridones / pharmacology*
  • RNA, Fungal / chemistry
  • RNA, Fungal / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Virulence Factors / biosynthesis
  • Virulence Factors / genetics*


  • Antifungal Agents
  • CDR1 protein, Candida albicans
  • Chlorides
  • FTR1 protein, Candida albicans
  • Ferric Compounds
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Pyridones
  • RNA, Fungal
  • Virulence Factors
  • Ciclopirox
  • 2,2'-Dipyridyl
  • Fluconazole
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Iron
  • Oxidoreductases
  • CFL1 protein, Candida albicans
  • ferric chloride