Moxifloxacin-Mediated Killing of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Involves Respiratory Downshift, Reductive Stress, and Accumulation of Reactive Oxygen Species

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2022 Sep 20;66(9):e0059222. doi: 10.1128/aac.00592-22. Epub 2022 Aug 17.


Moxifloxacin is central to treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Effects of moxifloxacin on the Mycobacterium tuberculosis redox state were explored to identify strategies for increasing lethality and reducing the prevalence of extensively resistant tuberculosis. A noninvasive redox biosensor and a reactive oxygen species (ROS)-sensitive dye revealed that moxifloxacin induces oxidative stress correlated with M. tuberculosis death. Moxifloxacin lethality was mitigated by supplementing bacterial cultures with an ROS scavenger (thiourea), an iron chelator (bipyridyl), and, after drug removal, an antioxidant enzyme (catalase). Lethality was also reduced by hypoxia and nutrient starvation. Moxifloxacin increased the expression of genes involved in the oxidative stress response, iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis, and DNA repair. Surprisingly, and in contrast with Escherichia coli studies, moxifloxacin decreased expression of genes involved in respiration, suppressed oxygen consumption, increased the NADH/NAD+ ratio, and increased the labile iron pool in M. tuberculosis. Lowering the NADH/NAD+ ratio in M. tuberculosis revealed that NADH-reductive stress facilitates an iron-mediated ROS surge and moxifloxacin lethality. Treatment with N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) accelerated respiration and ROS production, increased moxifloxacin lethality, and lowered the mutant prevention concentration. Moxifloxacin induced redox stress in M. tuberculosis inside macrophages, and cotreatment with NAC potentiated the antimycobacterial efficacy of moxifloxacin during nutrient starvation, inside macrophages, and in mice, where NAC restricted the emergence of resistance. Thus, NADH-reductive stress contributes to moxifloxacin-mediated killing of M. tuberculosis, and the respiration stimulator (NAC) enhances lethality and suppresses the emergence of drug resistance.

Keywords: N-acetyl cysteine; NADH; ROS; antimycobacterial; fluoroquinolone; moxifloxacin; oxidative stress; redox biosensor; reductive stress; resistance; respiration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2,2'-Dipyridyl / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Catalase
  • Cysteine
  • Iron
  • Iron Chelating Agents / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Moxifloxacin / pharmacology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis*
  • NAD
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sulfur / pharmacology
  • Thiourea
  • Tuberculosis* / microbiology


  • Antioxidants
  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • NAD
  • 2,2'-Dipyridyl
  • Sulfur
  • Iron
  • Catalase
  • Thiourea
  • Cysteine
  • Moxifloxacin