Inhibition of mitochondrial function in isolated rate liver mitochondria by azole antifungals

J Biochem Toxicol. 1996;11(3):127-31. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1522-7146(1996)11:3<127::AID-JBT4>3.0.CO;2-M.


Ketoconazole is an imidazole oral antifungal agent with a broad spectrum of activity. Ketoconazole has been reported to cause liver damage, but the mechanism is unknown. However, ketoconazole and a related rug, miconazole, have been shown to have inhibitory effects on oxidative phosphorylation in fungi. Fluconazole, another orally administered antifungal azole, has also been reported to cause liver damage despite its supposedly low toxicity profile. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the metabolic integrity of adult rat liver mitochondria after exposure to ketoconazole, miconazole, fluconazole, and the deacetylated metabolite of ketoconazole by measuring ADP-dependent oxygen uptake polarographically and succinate dehydrogenase activity spectrophotometrically. Ketoconazole, N-deacetyl ketoconazole, and miconazole inhibited glutamate-malate oxidation in a dose-dependent manner such that the 50% inhibitory concentration (I50) was 32,300, and 110 microM, respectively. In addition, the effect of ketoconazole, miconazole, and fluconazole on phosphorylation coupled to the oxidation of pyruvate/malate, ornithine/malate, arginine/malate, and succinate was evaluated. The results demonstrated that ketoconazole and miconazole produced a dose-dependent inhibition of NADH oxidase in which ketoconazole was the most potent inhibitor. Fluconazole had minimal inhibitory effects on NADH oxidase and succinate dehydrogenase, whereas higher concentrations of ketoconazole were required to inhibit the activity of succinate dehydrogenase. N-deacetylated ketoconazole inhibited succinate dehydrogenase with an I50 of 350 microM. In addition, the reduction of ferricyanide by succinate catalyzed by succinate dehydrogenase demonstrated that ketoconazole caused a dose-dependent inhibition of succinate activity (I50 of 74 microM). In summary, ketoconazole appears to be the more potent mitochondrial inhibitor of the azoles studied; complex I of the respiratory chain is the apparent target of the drug's action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antifungal Agents / toxicity*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fluconazole / toxicity*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Ketoconazole / metabolism
  • Ketoconazole / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Miconazole / toxicity*
  • Mitochondria, Liver / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria, Liver / metabolism
  • Multienzyme Complexes / drug effects
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / drug effects
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / drug effects
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / metabolism


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Miconazole
  • Fluconazole
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase
  • NADH oxidase
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases
  • Ketoconazole