Cationic amphiphilic drug-induced phospholipidosis

Toxicol Pathol. 1997 Jan-Feb;25(1):53-60. doi: 10.1177/019262339702500111.


Phospholipidosis, a phospholipid storage disorder, defines an excessive accumulation of intracellular phospholipids. Phospholipids are structural components of mammalian cytoskeleton and cell membranes. The metabolism of this essential cell component is regulated by the individual cell and may be altered by drugs that interact with phospholipids or the enzymes that affect their metabolism. Xenobiotics or their metabolites that induce phospholipidosis include a wide variety of pharmacologic agents, including antibacterials, antipsychotics, antidepressants, antiarrhythmics, antianginals, antimalarials, anorexic agents, cholesterol-lowering agents, and others. Each of these drugs shares several common physiochemical properties: hydrophobic ring structure on the molecule and a hydrophilic side chain with a charged cationic amine group, hence the class term cationic amphiphilic drugs (CADs). This paper reviews the phospholipid metabolism, physiochemical characteristics of CADs, specificity of phospholipidosis in animals and humans, functional effects of phospholipidosis, interaction of CADs with biologic membranes and lysosome metabolism, influence of CADs on phospholipases and phospholipid synthesis, and a proposed mechanism for induction of phospholipidosis in the lung. In human risk assessment, investigators should consider the many factors in evaluating a drug that induces phospholipidosis in animals. These include: the therapeutic class of drug, presence of active metabolites, tissue or organ selectivity in animals and humans, influence of concurrently administered drugs, reversibility of effect, and other factors that increase or decrease the induction of phospholipidosis. Generalities regarding the etiology, incidence, and effect of the drug on a specific host may not be made. Each drug must be evaluated separately to identify the risk when administered for therapeutic effect in humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cations
  • Humans
  • Lipidoses / chemically induced*
  • Phospholipids / metabolism*
  • Surface-Active Agents / metabolism
  • Surface-Active Agents / toxicity*


  • Cations
  • Phospholipids
  • Surface-Active Agents