Increased Degree of Unsaturation in the Lipid of Antifungal Cationic Amphiphiles Facilitates Selective Fungal Cell Disruption

Kfir B. Steinbuch, Raphael I. Benhamou, Lotan Levin, Reuven Stein, Micha Fridman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Antimicrobial cationic amphiphiles derived from aminoglycosides act through cell membrane permeabilization but have limited selectivity for microbial cell membranes. Herein, we report that an increased degree of unsaturation in the fatty acid segment of antifungal cationic amphiphiles derived from the aminoglycoside tobramycin significantly reduced toxicity to mammalian cells. A collection of tobramycin-derived cationic amphiphiles substituted with C18 lipid chains varying in degree of unsaturation and double bond configuration were synthesized. All had potent activity against a panel of important fungal pathogens including strains with resistance to a variety of antifungal drugs. The tobramycin-derived cationic amphiphile substituted with linolenic acid with three cis double bonds (compound 6) was up to an order of magnitude less toxic to mammalian cells than cationic amphiphiles composed of lipids with a lower degree of unsaturation and than the fungal membrane disrupting drug amphotericin B. Compound 6 was 12-fold more selective (red blood cell hemolysis relative to antifungal activity) than compound 1, the derivative with a fully saturated lipid chain. Notably, compound 6 disrupted the membranes of fungal cells without affecting the viability of cocultured mammalian cells. This study demonstrates that the degree of unsaturation and the configuration of the double bond in lipids of cationic amphiphiles are important parameters that, if optimized, result in compounds with broad spectrum and potent antifungal activity as well as reduced toxicity toward mammalian cells.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)825-836
Number of pages12
JournalACS Infectious Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - 11 May 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Chemical Society.


  • amphiphilic aminoglycosides
  • antifungal drugs
  • lipid unsaturation
  • membrane disruption


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