Transcriptomic Responses to Polymyxin B and Analogues in Human Kidney Tubular Cells

Mengyao Li, Mohammad A.K. Azad, Philip E. Thompson, Kade D. Roberts, Tony Velkov, Yan Zhu, Jian Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Polymyxins are last-line antibiotics for the treatment of Gram-negative ‘superbugs’. However, nephrotoxicity can occur in up to 60% of patients administered intravenous polymyxins. The mechanisms underpinning nephrotoxicity remain unclear. To understand polymyxin-induced nephrotoxicity, human renal proximal tubule cells were treated for 24 h with 0.1 mM polymyxin B or two new analogues, FADDI-251 or FADDI-287. Transcriptomic analysis was performed, and differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were identified using ANOVA (FDR < 0.2). Cell viability following treatment with polymyxin B, FADDI-251 or FADDI-287 was 66.0 ± 5.33%, 89.3 ± 3.96% and 90.4 ± 1.18%, respectively. Transcriptomics identified 430, 193 and 150 DEGs with polymyxin B, FADDI-251 and FADDI-287, respectively. Genes involved with metallothioneins and Toll-like receptor pathways were significantly perturbed by all polymyxins. Only polymyxin B induced perturbations in signal transduction, including FGFR2 and MAPK signaling. SIGNOR network analysis showed all treatments affected essential regulators in the immune system, autophagy, cell cycle, oxidative stress and apoptosis. All polymyxins caused significant perturbations of metal homeostasis and TLR signaling, while polymyxin B caused the most dramatic perturbations of the transcriptome. This study reveals the impact of polymyxin structure modifications on transcriptomic responses in human renal tubular cells and provides important information for designing safer new-generation polymyxins.

Original languageEnglish
Article number415
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • metallothioneins
  • nephrotoxicity
  • polymyxin
  • transcriptomics

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