Antimicrobials and in vitro systems: Antibiotics and antimycotics alter the proteome of MCF-7 cells in culture

William Mathieson*, Susan Kirkland, Robert Leonard, Gerry A. Thomas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Cell culture is widely used to study gene or protein changes in response to experimental conditions. The value of such experiments depends on stringent control and understanding of the in vitro environment. Despite well-documented evidence describing toxic effects in the clinical setting, antibiotics and antimycotics are routinely used in cell culture without regard for their potential toxicity. We cultured MCF-7 breast cancer cells in the presence/absence of antibiotics (penicillin/streptomycin) and/or the antimycotic amphotericin B. Differential protein expression was assessed using 2D-DIGE and MALDI-MS/MS. Antibiotics caused 8/488 spots (1.3% of the protein) to be generally down-regulated. The affected proteins were principally chaperones and cytoskeletal. In marked contrast, amphotericin B induced a more dramatic response, with 33/488 spots (9.5% of the total protein) generally up-regulated. The proteins were mostly involved in chaperoning and protein turnover. Combining antibiotics and amphotericin B had little overall effect, with only one (unidentified) protein being up-regulated. As this study identifies differential protein expression attributable to antibiotics/antimycotics, we urge caution when comparing and interpreting proteomic results from different laboratories where antibiotics/antimycotics have been used. We conclude that as antibiotics and antimycotics alter the proteome of cultured cells in markedly different ways their use should be avoided where possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2170-2178
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cellular Biochemistry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Amphotericin B
  • Antibiotics
  • Cell culture
  • Fungizone
  • Penicillin
  • Proteomics
  • Streptomycin


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