Natamycin interferes with ergosterol-dependent lipid phases in model membranes

Vibeke Akkerman, Holger A. Scheidt, Peter Reinholdt, Mohammad Bashawat, Maria Szomek, Max Lehmann, Pablo Wessig, Douglas F. Covey, Jacob Kongsted, Peter Müller, Daniel Wüstner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Natamycin is an antifungal polyene macrolide that is used as a food preservative but also to treat fungal keratitis and other yeast infections. In contrast to other polyene antimycotics, natamycin does not form ion pores in the plasma membrane, but its mode of action is poorly understood. Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy of deuterated sterols, we find that natamycin slows the mobility of ergosterol and cholesterol in liquid-ordered (Lo) membranes to a similar extent. This is supported by molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, which additionally reveal a strong impact of natamycin dimers on sterol dynamics and water permeability. Interference with sterol-dependent lipid packing is also reflected in a natamycin-mediated increase in membrane accessibility for dithionite, particularly in bilayers containing ergosterol. NMR experiments with deuterated sphingomyelin (SM) in sterol-containing membranes reveal that natamycin reduces phase separation and increases lipid exchange in bilayers with ergosterol. In ternary lipid mixtures containing monounsaturated phosphatidylcholine, saturated SM, and either ergosterol or cholesterol, natamycin interferes with phase separation into Lo and liquid-disordered (Ld) domains, as shown by NMR spectroscopy. Employing the intrinsic fluorescence of natamycin in ultraviolet-sensitive microscopy, we can visualize the binding of natamycin to giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) and find that it has the highest affinity for the Lo phase in GUVs containing ergosterol. Our results suggest that natamycin specifically interacts with the sterol-induced ordered phase, in which it disrupts lipid packing and increases solvent accessibility. This property is particularly pronounced in ergosterol containing membranes, which could underlie the selective antifungal activity of natamycin.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100102
JournalBBA Advances
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Antifungals
  • Cholesterol
  • Ergosterol
  • Lipid phase
  • Polyene macrolide
  • Yeast


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