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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2005 May;49(5):1679-87.

Antileishmanial activity of the terpene nerolidol.

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  • 1Departamento de Parasitologia, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Professor Lineu Prestes, 1374, CEP 05508-900, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


The activity of nerolidol, a sesquiterpene used as a food-flavoring agent and currently under testing as a skin penetration enhancer for the transdermal delivery of therapeutic drugs, was evaluated against Leishmania species. Nerolidol inhibited the growth of Leishmania amazonensis, L. braziliensis, and L. chagasi promastigotes and L. amazonensis amastigotes with in vitro 50% inhibitory concentrations of 85, 74, 75, and 67 microM, respectively. The treatment of L. amazonensis-infected macrophages with 100 microM nerolidol resulted in 95% reduction in infection rates. Inhibition of isoprenoid biosynthesis, as shown by reduced incorporation of [2-(14)C]mevalonic acid (MVA) or [1-(14)C]acetic acid precursors into dolichol, ergosterol, and ubiquinone, was observed in nerolidol-treated promastigotes. This drug effect can be attributed to the blockage of an early step in the mevalonate pathway, since incorporation of the precursor [1(n)-(3)H]farnesyl pyrophosphate in polyisoprenoids is not inhibited by nerolidol. L. amazonensis-infected BALB/c mice were treated with intraperitoneal doses of 100 mg/kg/day for 12 days or topically with 5 or 10% ointments for 4 weeks. Significant reduction of lesion sizes in nerolidol treated mice was observed for both treatment routes. However, long-term follow up indicated that the disease was not cured in this highly susceptible animal model. Nonetheless, the in vitro activity of nerolidol against these parasites may prove a useful tool for the development of new drugs for the treatment of leishmaniasis. In addition, biosynthesis of dolichols with 11 and 12 isoprene units was identified in Leishmania, as described for other trypanosomatids and Apicomplexa.

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