Resistance reversal induced by a combination of fluconazole and tacrolimus (FK506) in Candida glabrata

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There is an increasing concern about Candida glabrata due to its high isolation frequency in candidiasis recently and notorious drug resistance to fluconazole. Drug combination is one effective approach to counteract drug resistance. This study aimed to test whether a combination of fluconazole and tacrolimus (FK506) had a synergistic effect on C. glabrata, and to seek the potential mechanisms underlying the synergistic effects. In vitro effects of fluconazole and FK506 against C. glabrata with different susceptibilities were investigated by a chequerboard method and a time–kill curve method. The mechanistic studies against the resistant C. glabrata were performed from two aspects: quantification of expression levels of fluconazole resistance genes (ERG11, CDR1, PDH1 and SNQ2) by real-time quantitative PCR and functional assays of drug efflux pumps. The addition of FK506 resulted in a decrease in the MIC of fluconazole from 32 to 8 μg ml−1 against the dose-dependent susceptible C. glabrata, and from 256 to 16 μg ml−1 against the resistant C. glabrata, respectively. The synergy was further confirmed by the time-kill assay. The expression levels of the ERG11 and SNQ2 genes were significantly downregulated after exposure to the drug combination, whereas that of the CDR1 gene was significantly upregulated, and no significant change in expression of PDH1 gene was observed. Flow cytometric assays showed that FK506 reduced the efflux of fluconazole. Tacrolimus enhanced the susceptibility of fluconazole against resistant C. glabrata by reducing the expression levels of the ERG11 and SNQ2 genes and inhibiting fluconazole efflux.

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