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Pharmacokinetics of posaconazole within epithelial cells and fungi: insights into potential mechanisms of action during treatment and prophylaxis.

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The antifungal posaconazole concentrates within host cells and protects against Aspergillus fumigatus. The specific subcellular location of posaconazole and the mechanism by which cell-associated posaconazole inhibits fungal growth remain uncharacterized.


Posaconazole was conjugated with the fluorophore boron-dipyrromethene (BDP-PCZ). A549 pulmonary epithelial cells and A. fumigatus were exposed to BDP-PCZ individually and in coculture. BDP-PCZ subcellular localization and trafficking were observed using confocal microscopy and flow cytometry.


BDP-PCZ concentrated within A549 cell membranes, and in particular within the endoplasmic reticulum. Epithelial cell-associated BDP-PCZ rapidly transferred to and concentrated within A. fumigatus cell membranes on contact. BDP-PCZ transfer to conidia did not require phagocytosis and was markedly enhanced by the conidial hydrophobin RodA. Within AF, BDP-PCZ also concentrated in membranes including the endoplasmic reticulum and colocalized with the azole target enzyme CYP51a. Concentration of BDP-PCZ within host and fungal cell membranes persisted for >48 hours and could be competitively inhibited by posaconazole but not voriconazole.


Posaconazole concentrates within host cell membranes and rapidly transfers to A. fumigatus, where it accumulates to high concentrations and persists at the site of its target enzyme. These intracellular and intercellular pharmacokinetic properties probably contribute to the efficacy of PCZ.

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