The structuring effects of amphotericin B on pure and ergosterol- or cholesterol-containing dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine bilayers: a differential scanning calorimetry study

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1998 Aug 14;1373(1):76-86. doi: 10.1016/s0005-2736(98)00083-2.


Amphotericin B (AmB) is the most widely used polyene antibiotic to treat systemic fungal infections which affect an increasing number of immunocompromised patients. It is generally thought that AmB forms pores within the fungi membranes by interacting with ergosterol, the main sterol of fungi. However, it also interacts with the cholesterol contained in mammalian cells, hence its toxicity. In order to have a better understanding of the interactions prevailing between AmB and sterols, differential scanning calorimetry was used to study various mixtures incorporating from 6.5 to 25 mol% of AmB in pure dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) vesicles and in ergosterol- or cholesterol-containing DPPC vesicles. The sterol concentration was kept constant at 12.5 mol% with respect to the phospholipid. Our results show that three phases co-exist when AmB is dispersed in the pure phospholipid. One corresponds to the phospholipid phase alone. The two others are characterised by a broad transition at temperatures higher than the main transition temperature of the pure phospholipid, corresponding to the drug in interaction with the aliphatic chains of the lipid. The fact that the transition temperatures of these additional components are higher than that of the pure phospholipid suggests that AmB interacts strongly with the aliphatic chains of the lipid, consistent with the idea prevailing in the literature that AmB by itself may form pores in a lipid matrix. When AmB interacts with cholesterol-containing bilayers the thermograms also present three components. Upon increasing the concentration of AmB, though, an important broadening of these components is observed which is explained in terms of destabilisation of the organisation of the aliphatic chains. The situation is strikingly different if ergosterol is present in the lipid matrix. The thermograms remain unmodified as the concentration of AmB is increased and a broad transition, now involving only two components when the thermograms are decomposed, is observed. An analysis of the results shows that various interacting units, e.g. AmB+DPPC and (AmB+ergosterol)+DPPC, are present within the membrane. These units involve the phospholipid and hence contribute to its structurisation. The important differences between the thermograms obtained with the ergosterol- as compared to the cholesterol-containing bilayers, in spite of the structural similarity of these two sterols, provides strong evidence for the selectivity of interaction of AmB with ergosterol as compared to cholesterol. It is thus clear that the action of AmB on cholesterol- as compared to ergosterol-containing membranes results from different mechanisms. Finally, UV-visible spectra of AmB in pure as well as sterol-containing DPPC vesicles show the presence of absorption bands that give support to the interpretation derived from the calorimetric data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 1,2-Dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine / chemistry*
  • Amphotericin B / chemistry*
  • Calorimetry, Differential Scanning
  • Cholesterol / chemistry*
  • Ergosterol / chemistry*
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet
  • Thermodynamics


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • 1,2-Dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine
  • Amphotericin B
  • Cholesterol
  • Ergosterol