Troponoids Can Inhibit Growth of the Human Fungal Pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2017 Mar 24;61(4):e02574-16. doi: 10.1128/AAC.02574-16. Print 2017 Apr.


Cryptococcus neoformans is a pathogen that is common in immunosuppressed patients. It can be treated with amphotericin B and fluconazole, but the mortality rate remains 15 to 30%. Thus, novel and more effective anticryptococcal therapies are needed. The troponoids are based on natural products isolated from western red cedar, and have a broad range of antimicrobial activities. Extracts of western red cedar inhibit the growth of several fungal species, but neither western red cedar extracts nor troponoid derivatives have been tested against C. neoformans We screened 56 troponoids for their ability to inhibit C. neoformans growth and to assess whether they may be attractive candidates for development into anticryptococcal drugs. We determined MICs at which the compounds inhibited 80% of cryptococcal growth relative to vehicle-treated controls and identified 12 compounds with MICs ranging from 0.2 to 15 μM. We screened compounds with MICs of ≤20 μM for cytotoxicity in liver hepatoma cells. Fifty percent cytotoxicity values (CC50s) ranged from 4 to >100 μM. The therapeutic indexes (TI, CC50/MIC) for most of the troponoids were fairly low, with most being <8. However, two compounds had TI values that were >8, including a tropone with a TI of >300. These tropones are fungicidal and are not antagonistic when used in combination with fluconazole or amphotericin B. Inhibition by these two tropones remains unchanged under conditions favoring cryptococcal capsule formation. These data support the hypothesis that troponoids may be a productive scaffold for the development of novel anticryptococcal therapies.

Keywords: Cryptococcus neoformans; antifungal agents; tropolones.

MeSH terms

  • Amphotericin B / pharmacology
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / drug effects*
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / growth & development
  • Fluconazole / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Tropolone / pharmacology


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Tropolone
  • Amphotericin B
  • Fluconazole