Recent studies have raised the question of whether the intracellular activity of quinolones is optimal with respect to their cellular accumulation. The aim of this study was to compare the intracellular and extracellular activities of a commonly used quinolone, levofloxacin, and to examine the causes of the possible inconsistency between intracellular and extracellular effects.Methods
The bactericidal activity of levofloxacin at therapeutic levels, alone or in combination with various efflux-pump inhibitors or alkalinizing agents, was studied against Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 25923 in Mueller–Hinton (MH) broth and in a THP-1 monocytic cell model, using intracellular salt medium (ISM) mimicking the phagolysosomal environment, and in cell lysate.Results
Levofloxacin accumulation was 2-fold higher in uninfected than in infected cells. Intracellular activity was significantly lower than extracellular activity (decrease in the inoculum of ≤1 log10 cfu/mL at 4 or 8 mg/L versus ≥2 log10 units at ≥1 mg/L in MH broth over 5 h). Persisters remained fully susceptible to the drug. The efflux pump inhibitors verapamil and gemfibrozil did not affect killing of intracellular bacteria, although gemfibrozil increased cellular accumulation of levofloxacin 1.7-fold. The lysosomotropic alkalinizing agents chloroquine and ammonium chloride significantly enhanced intracellular killing by levofloxacin. The bactericidal activity of levofloxacin, abolished in ISM, was partially restored when the pH was neutralized from 5.0 to 7.4. Binding to intracellular components (20%) substantially decreased the efficiency of levofloxacin.Conclusions
Levofloxacin exhibited substantially lower intracellular activity than extracellular activity. Cellular compartmentalization of the drug, phagolysosomal environment and antibiotic binding to cellular components most likely contribute to this failure.