The aim of this study was to investigate the antifungal activity of baicalin and its potential mechanism of action against Candida albicans biofilms. The standard techniques including microdilution method and checkerboard assay were employed to evaluate the susceptibilities of baicalin alone and in combination with fluconazole against planktonic and biofilm cells of C. albicans. Transmission electron microscope (TEM), scanning electron microscope (SEM), fluorescent microscope and flow cytometry were used to assess the apoptotic incidences induced by baicalin in biofilm cells. The expressions of four genes (RAS1, CAP1, PDE2 and TPK1) related to Ras-cAMP-PKA pathway were also analyzed by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). The results showed that minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) and sessile minimum inhibitory concentration (SMIC50) of baicalin were 500 and 2000 μg/mL with fractional inhibitory concentration indexs (FICIs) ranging from 0.28 to 0.75. A series of events related to apoptosis were observed in baicalin-treated C. albicans biofilms, including extensive chromatin condensation along the nuclear envelope, ROS accumulation, MMP reduction, PS externalization, nuclear fragmentation, chromatin condensation, metacaspase activation and Cyt C release. Additionally, the expressions of RAS1 and TPK1 were up-regulated by 3.2 and 2.9 folds respectively, while those of CAP1 and PDE2 were down-regulated by 3.3 and 6.6 folds respectively after exposure to baicalin in biofilm cells. In conclusion, baicalin can suppress the development of C. albicans biofilms most likely due to inducing cell death via apoptosis.
Keywords: Antifungal activity; Apoptosis; Baicalin; Biofilms; Candida albicans; Ras-cAMP-PKA.
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