Synergism of antifungal activity between mitochondrial respiration inhibitors and kojic acid

Molecules. 2013 Jan 25;18(2):1564-81. doi: 10.3390/molecules18021564.


Co-application of certain types of compounds to conventional antimicrobial drugs can enhance the efficacy of the drugs through a process termed chemosensitization. We show that kojic acid (KA), a natural pyrone, is a potent chemosensitizing agent of complex III inhibitors disrupting the mitochondrial respiratory chain in fungi. Addition of KA greatly lowered the minimum inhibitory concentrations of complex III inhibitors tested against certain filamentous fungi. Efficacy of KA synergism in decreasing order was pyraclostrobin > kresoxim-methyl > antimycin A. KA was also found to be a chemosensitizer of cells to hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂), tested as a mimic of reactive oxygen species involved in host defense during infection, against several human fungal pathogens and Penicillium strains infecting crops. In comparison, KA-mediated chemosensitization to complex III inhibitors/H₂O₂ was undetectable in other types of fungi, including Aspergillus flavus, A. parasiticus, and P. griseofulvum, among others. Of note, KA was found to function as an antioxidant, but not as an antifungal chemosensitizer in yeasts. In summary, KA could serve as an antifungal chemosensitizer to complex III inhibitors or H₂O₂ against selected human pathogens or Penicillium species. KA-mediated chemosensitization to H₂O₂ seemed specific for filamentous fungi. Thus, results indicate strain- and/or drug-specificity exist during KA chemosensitization.

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis / drug effects
  • Antifungal Agents / chemistry
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antimycin A / chemistry
  • Antimycin A / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Biological Assay
  • Carbamates / chemistry
  • Carbamates / pharmacology
  • Cell Respiration / drug effects
  • Drug Synergism
  • Electron Transport Complex III / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Electron Transport Complex III / metabolism
  • Fungi / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Methacrylates / chemistry
  • Methacrylates / pharmacology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Phenylacetates / chemistry
  • Phenylacetates / pharmacology
  • Pyrazoles / chemistry
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology
  • Pyrones / chemistry
  • Pyrones / pharmacology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / drug effects
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Strobilurins


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Carbamates
  • Methacrylates
  • Phenylacetates
  • Pyrazoles
  • Pyrones
  • Strobilurins
  • kresoxim-methyl
  • Antimycin A
  • kojic acid
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • pyrachlostrobin
  • Electron Transport Complex III