New insights into the antibacterial mechanism of action of squalamine


  • Alhanout Kamel
  • Malesinki Soazig
  • Vidal Nicolas
  • Peyrot Vincent
  • Rolain Jean-Marc
  • Brunel Jean Michel


Antimicrobial resistance is an increasingly life-threatening problem that emphasizes the need to develop new antibacterial agents. The in vitro antibacterial activity of squalamine, a natural aminosterol, has been previously demonstrated against multidrug-resistant bacteria and moulds. Although the antibacterial activity of squalamine was found to correlate with that of other drugs, such as colistin, against Gram-negative bacteria, the former was active against Gram-positive bacteria, which are resistant to colistin. In this work, we provide new insights into squalamine's antibacterial mechanism of action compared with other known antibiotics. We evaluated squalamine's antibacterial mechanism of action using the broth microdilution method for MIC determination and time-kill assays, transmission electron microscopy for morphological change studies, bioluminescence for ATP release measurements and fluorescence methods for membrane depolarization assays. Concerning Gram-negative bacteria, squalamine, similar to colistin, required interaction with the negatively charged phosphate groups in the bacterial outer membrane as the first step in a sequence of different events ultimately leading to the disruption of the membrane. Conversely, squalamine exhibited a depolarizing effect on Gram-positive bacteria, which resulted in rapid cell death. The new insights into the mechanism of action of squalamine highlight the importance of aminosterols in the design of a new class of antibacterial compounds that could be used as disinfectants and detergents.

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