Antifungal screening and in silico mechanistic studies of an in-house azole library
Systemic Candida infections pose a serious public health problem with high morbidity and mortality. C. albicans is the major pathogen identified in candidiasis; however, non-albicans Candida spp. with antifungal resistance are now more prevalent. Azoles are first-choice antifungal drugs for candidiasis; however, they are ineffective for certain infections caused by the resistant strains. Azoles block ergosterol synthesis by inhibiting fungal CYP51, which leads to disruption of fungal membrane permeability. In this study, we screened for antifungal activity of an in-house azole library of 65 compounds to identify hit matter followed by a molecular modeling study for their CYP51 inhibition mechanism. Antifungal susceptibility tests against standard Candida spp. including C. albicans revealed derivatives 12 and 13 as highly active. Furthermore, they showed potent antibiofilm activity as well as neglectable cytotoxicity in a mouse fibroblast assay. According to molecular docking studies, 12 and 13 have the necessary binding characteristics for effective inhibition of CYP51. Finally, molecular dynamics simulations of the C. albicans CYP51 (CACYP51) homology model's catalytic site complexed with 13 were stable demonstrating excellent binding.