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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1995 Sep;61(9):3385-90.

Mechanism of pyrithione-induced membrane depolarization in Neurospora crassa.

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  • 1Biology Department, University of York, United Kingdom.


Pyrithione is a general inhibitor of membrane transport in fungi and is widely used in antidandruff shampoos as an antifungal agent. An electrophysiological approach has been used to determine the mode of action of pyrithione on the plasma membrane of the model ascomycete, Neurospora crassa. At pH 5.8, pyrithione induces a dramatic dose-dependent electrical depolarization of the membrane which is complete within 4 min, amounts to 110 mV at saturating pyrithione concentrations, and is half maximal between 0.6 and 0.8 mM pyrithione. Zinc pyrithione induces a similar response but exerts a half-maximal effect at around 0.3 mM. The depolarization is strongly dependent on external pH, being almost absent at pH 8.2, at which the concentration of the uncharged form of pyrithione--which might be expected to permeate the membrane freely--is markedly lowered. However, quantitative considerations based on cytosolic buffer capacity, the pKa of pyrithione, and the submillimolar concentration at which it is active appear to preclude significant cytosolic acidification on dissociation of the thiol proton from the uncharged form of pyrithione. Current-voltage analysis demonstrates that the depolarization is accompanied by a decrease in membrane electrical conductance in a manner consistent with inhibition of the primary proton pump and inconsistent with a mode of action of pyrithione on plasma membrane ion channels. We conclude that pyrithione inhibits membrane transport via a direct or indirect effect on the primary proton pump which energizes transport and that the site of action of pyrithione is likely to be intra- rather than extracellular.

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