The ion permeability induced in thin lipid membranes by the polyene antibiotics nystatin and amphotericin b

Albert Cass, Alan Finkelstein, Vivian Krespi

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218 Scopus citations


Characteristics of nystatin and amphotericin B action on thin (> 100 A) lipid membranes are: (a) micromolar amounts increase membrane conductance from 10-8 to over 10-2 Ω-l cm-2 ; (b) such membranes are (nonideally) anion selective and discriminate among anions on the basis of size; (c) membrane sterol is required for action; (d) antibiotic presence on both sides of membrane strongly favors action; (e) conductance is proportional to a large power of antibiotic concentration; (f) conductance decreases - 104 times for a 10°C temperature rise; (g) kinetics of antibiotic action are also very temperature sensitive; (h) ion selectivity is pH independent between 3 and 10, but (i) activity is reversibly lost at high pH; (j) methyl ester derivatives are fully active; N-acetyl and N-succinyl derivatives are inactive; (k) current-voltage characteristic is nonlinear when membrane separates nonidentical salt solutions. These characteristics are contrasted with those of valinomycin. Observations (a)-(g) suggest that aggregates of polyene and sterol from opposite sides of the membrane interact to create aqueous pores; these pores are not static, but break up (melt) and reform continuously. Mechanism of anion selectivity is obscure. Observations (h)-(j) suggest-NH3+ is important for activity; it is probably not responsible for selectivity, particularly since four polyene antibiotics, each containing two -NH3+ groups, induce ideal cation selectivity. Possibly the many hydroxyl groups in nystatin and amphotericin B are responsible for anion selectivity. The effects of polyene antibiotics on thin lipid membranes are consistent with their action on biological membranes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-124
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of General Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 1970
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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