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Berberine reverses multidrug resistance in Candida albicans by hijacking the drug efflux pump Mdr1p

By Yaojun Tong, Nuo Sun, Xiangming Wang, Qi Wei, Yu Zhang, Ren Huang, Yingying Pu, Huanqin Dai, Biao Ren, Gang Pei, Fuhang Song, Guoliang Zhu, Xinye Wang, Xuekui Xia, Xiangyin Chen, Lan Jiang, Jingyu Zhang, Liming Ouyang, Buchang Zhang, Yuanying Jiang, Xueting Liu, Richard Calderone, Fan Bai, Lixin Zhang, Gil Alterovitz

Posted 26 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.26.173484

Clinical use of antimicrobials faces great challenges from the emergence of multidrug resistant (MDR) pathogens. The overexpression of drug efflux pumps is one of the major contributors to MDR. It is considered as a promising approach to overcome MDR by reversing the function of drug efflux pumps. In the life-threatening fungal pathogen Candida albicans, the major facilitator superfamily (MFS) transporter Mdr1p can excrete many structurally unrelated antifungals, leading to multidrug resistance. Here we report a counterintuitive case of reversing multidrug resistance in C. albicans by using a natural product berberine to hijack the overexpressed Mdr1p for its own importation. Moreover, we illustrate that the imported berberine accumulates in mitochondria, and compromises the mitochondrial function by impairing mitochondrial membrane potential and mitochondrial Complex I. It results in the selective elimination of Mdr1p overexpressed C. albicans cells. Furthermore, we show that berberine treatment can prolong the mean survival time (MST) of mice with a blood-borne dissemination of Mdr1p overexpressed multidrug resistant candidiasis. This study provided a potential direction of novel anti-MDR drug discovery by screening for multidrug efflux pump converters.

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