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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. Nov 1997; 41(11): 2492–2496.
PMCID: PMC164150

A new triazole, voriconazole (UK-109,496), blocks sterol biosynthesis in Candida albicans and Candida krusei.


Voriconazole (UK-109,496) is a novel triazole derivative with potent broad-spectrum activity against various fungi, including some that are inherently resistant to fluconazole, such as Candida krusei. In this study we compared the effect of subinhibitory concentrations of voriconazole and fluconazole on sterol biosynthesis of fluconazole-resistant and -susceptible Candida albicans strains, as well as C. krusei, in an effort to delineate the precise mode of action of voriconazole. Voriconazole MICs ranged from 0.003 to 4 microg/ml, while fluconazole MICs ranged from 0.25 to >64 microg/ml. To investigate the effects of voriconazole and fluconazole on candidal sterols, yeast cells were grown in the absence and presence of antifungals. In untreated C. albicans controls, ergosterol was the major sterol (accounting for 53.6% +/- 2.2% to 71.7% +/- 7.8% of the total) in C. albicans and C. krusei strains. There was no significant difference between the sterol compositions of the fluconazole-susceptible and -resistant C. albicans isolates. Voriconazole treatment led to a decrease in the total sterol content of both C. albicans strains tested. In contrast, exposure to fluconazole did not result in a significant reduction in the total sterol content of the three candidal strains tested (P > 0.5). Gas-liquid chromatographic analysis revealed profound changes in the sterol profiles of both C. albicans strains and of C. krusei in response to voriconazole. This antifungal agent exerted a similar effect on the sterol compositions of both fluconazole-susceptible and -resistant C. albicans strains. Interestingly, a complete inhibition of ergosterol synthesis and accumulation of its biosynthetic precursors were observed in both strains treated with voriconazole. In contrast, fluconazole partially inhibited ergosterol synthesis. Analysis of sterols obtained from a fluconazole-resistant C. albicans strain grown in the presence of different concentrations of voriconazole showed that this agent inhibits ergosterol synthesis in a dose-dependent manner. In C. krusei, voriconazole significantly inhibited ergosterol synthesis (over 75% inhibition). C. krusei cells treated with voriconazole accumulated the following biosynthetic intermediates: squalene, 4,14-dimethylzymosterol, and 24-methylenedihydrolanosterol. Accumulation of these methylated sterols is consistent with the premise that this agent functions by inhibiting fungal P-450-dependent 14alpha-demethylase. As expected, treating C. krusei with fluconazole minimally inhibited ergosterol synthesis. Importantly, our data indicate that voriconazole is more effective than fluconazole in blocking candidal sterol biosynthesis, consistent with the different antifungal potencies of these compounds.

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Selected References

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