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Ann Clin Microbiol Antimicrob. 2009 Apr 29;8:13. doi: 10.1186/1476-0711-8-13.

Antimicrobial effect of farnesol, a Candida albicans quorum sensing molecule, on Paracoccidioides brasiliensis growth and morphogenesis.

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Laboratório de Biologia Molecular, CEL/IB, Universidade de Brasília, Brasília, DF, Brasil.



Farnesol is a sesquiterpene alcohol produced by many organisms, and also found in several essential oils. Its role as a quorum sensing molecule and as a virulence factor of Candida albicans has been well described. Studies revealed that farnesol affect the growth of a number of bacteria and fungi, pointing to a potential role as an antimicrobial agent.


Growth assays of Paracoccidioides brasiliensis cells incubated in the presence of different concentrations of farnesol were performed by measuring the optical density of the cultures. The viability of fungal cells was determined by MTT assay and by counting the colony forming units, after each farnesol treatment. The effects of farnesol on P. brasiliensis dimorphism were also evaluated by optical microscopy. The ultrastructural morphology of farnesol-treated P. brasiliensis yeast cells was evaluated by transmission and scanning electron microscopy.


In this study, the effects of farnesol on Paracoccidioides brasiliensis growth and dimorphism were described. Concentrations of this isoprenoid ranging from 25 to 300 microM strongly inhibited P. brasiliensis growth. We have estimated that the MIC of farnesol for P. brasiliensis is 25 microM, while the MLC is around 30 microM. When employing levels which don't compromise cell viability (5 to 15 microM), it was shown that farnesol also affected the morphogenesis of this fungus. We observed about 60% of inhibition in hyphal development following P. brasiliensis yeast cells treatment with 15 microM of farnesol for 48 h. At these farnesol concentrations we also observed a significant hyphal shortening. Electron microscopy experiments showed that, despite of a remaining intact cell wall, P. brasiliensis cells treated with farnesol concentrations above 25 microM exhibited a fully cytoplasmic degeneration.


Our data indicate that farnesol acts as a potent antimicrobial agent against P. brasiliensis. The fungicide activity of farnesol against this pathogen is probably associated to cytoplasmic degeneration. In concentrations that do not affect fungal viability, farnesol retards the germ-tube formation of P. brasiliensis, suggesting that the morphogenesis of this fungal is controlled by environmental conditions.

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