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Exp Parasitol. 2016 Dec;171:23-32. doi: 10.1016/j.exppara.2016.10.007. Epub 2016 Oct 8.

Pentamidine antagonizes the benznidazole's effect in vitro, and lacks of synergy in vivo: Implications about the polyamine transport as an anti-Trypanosoma cruzi target.

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Programa de Farmacología Molecular y Clínica, ICBM, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
Laboratorio de Parasitología Molecular, Instituto de Investigaciones Médicas Alfredo Lanari, Universidad de Buenos Aires and CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Programa de Anatomía y Biología del Desarrollo, ICBM, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
Programa de Farmacología Molecular y Clínica, ICBM, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile. Electronic address:


Benznidazole is the first-line drug used in treating Chagas disease, which is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi). However, benznidazole has limited efficacy and several adverse reactions. Pentamidine is an antiprotozoal drug used in the treatment of leishmaniasis and African trypanosomiasis. In T. cruzi, pentamidine blocks the transport of putrescine, a precursor of trypanothione, which constitutes an essential molecule in the resistance of T. cruzi to benznidazole. In the present study, we describe the effect of the combination of benznidazole and pentamidine on isolated parasites, mammalian cells and in mice infected with T. cruzi. In isolated trypomastigotes, we performed a dose-matrix scheme of combinations, where pentamidine antagonized the effect of benznidazole, mainly at concentrations below the EC50 of pentamidine. In T. cruzi-infected mammalian cells, pentamidine reversed the effect of benznidazole (measured by qPCR). In comparison, in infected BALB/c mice, pentamidine failed to get synergy with benznidazole, measured on mice survival, parasitemia and amastigote nest quantification. To further explain the in vitro antagonism, we explored whether pentamidine affects intracellular trypanothione levels, however, pentamidine produced no change in trypanothione concentrations. Finally, the T. cruzi polyamine permease (TcPAT12) was overexpressed in epimastigotes, showing that pentamidine has the same trypanocidal effect, independently of transporter expression levels. These results suggest that, in spite of the high potency in the putrescine transport blockade, TcPAT12 permease is not the main target of pentamidine, and could explain the lack of synergism between pentamidine and benznidazole.


Benznidazole; Chagas disease; Pentamidine; Polyamine transport; Trypanosoma cruzi

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