Fungal diseases affect more than 1 billion people worldwide. The constant global changes, the advent of new pandemics, and chronic diseases favor the diffusion of fungal pathogens such as Candida, Cryptococcus, Aspergillus, Trichophyton, Histoplasma capsulatum, and Paracoccidioides brasiliensis. In this work, a series of nitrofuran derivatives were synthesized and tested against different fungal species; most of them showed inhibitory activity, fungicide, and fungistatic profile. The minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC90) values for the most potent compounds range from 0.48 µg/mL against H. capsulatum (compound 11) and P. brasiliensis (compounds 3 and 9) to 0.98 µg/mL against Trichophyton rubrum and T. mentagrophytes (compounds 8, 9, 12, 13 and 8, 12, 13, respectively), and 3.9 µg/mL against Candida and Cryptococcus neoformans strains (compounds 1 and 5, respectively). In addition, all compounds showed low toxicity when tested in vitro on lung cell lines (A549 and MRC-5) and in vivo in Caenorhabditis elegans larvae. Many of them showed high selectivity index values. Thus, these studied nitrofuran derivatives proved to be potent against different fungal species, characterized by low toxicity and high selectivity; for these reasons, they may become promising compounds for the treatment of mycoses.
Histoplasma capsulatum is a fungus that causes histoplasmosis. The increased evolution of microbial resistance and the adverse effects of current antifungals help new drugs to emerge. In this work, fifty-four nitrofurans and indoles were tested against the H. capsulatum EH-315 strain. Compounds with a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC90) equal to or lower than 7.81 µg/mL were selected to evaluate their MIC90 on ATCC G217-B strain and their minimum fungicide concentration (MFC) on both strains. The quantification of membrane ergosterol, cell wall integrity, the production of reactive oxygen species, and the induction of death by necrosis–apoptosis was performed to investigate the mechanism of action of compounds 7, 11, and 32. These compounds could reduce the extracted sterol and induce necrotic cell death, similarly to itraconazole. Moreover, 7 and 11 damaged the cell wall, causing flaws in the contour (11), or changing the size and shape of the fungal cell wall (7). Furthermore, 7 and 32 induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation higher than 11 and control. Finally, the cytotoxicity was measured in two models of cell culture, i.e., monolayers (cells are flat) and a three-dimensional (3D) model, where they present a spheroidal conformation. Cytotoxicity assays in the 3D model showed a lower toxicity in the compounds than those performed on cell monolayers. Overall, these results suggest that derivatives of nitrofurans and indoles are promising compounds for the treatment of histoplasmosis.
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