Tetracycline antibiotics disrupt cellular mitochondria

Posted Mar 21, 2015 by Tim Sandle
From plants to mice and human cells, tetracyclines lead to mitochondrial dysfunction in studies on animals. This has caused scientists to raise warnings about this class of antibiotic.
New data suggests that commonly used antibiotics (tetracyclines) can disrupt mitochondrial function. This has been shown from recent studies carried out using plants, fruit flies, worms, mice, and human cells in culture. Mitochondria are known as the powerhouses of the cell. They are organelles that act like a digestive system which takes in nutrients, breaks them down, and creates energy rich molecules for the cell. When mitochondria fail, this can trigger mitochondrial diseases. Symptoms of such diseases include poor growth, loss of muscle coordination, visual problems, hearing problems, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, neurological problems, and dementia.
Specifically, the researchers found that adding tetracyclines to animal cells leads to altered mitochondrial genome translation and cellular respiration defects. Given that tetracyclines are the most common antibiotics used on farms (to improve meat quality in farm animals being reared for slaughter to make meat products), the new finding is of environmental concern. This is in addition to potentially exposing people to antibiotic-resistant bacteria in foods.
Tetracyclines are a broad-spectrum class of antibiotics. The chemicals are produced by the Streptomyces genus of Actinobacteria and are used to combat many types of bacterial infections. The antibiotic works as a protein synthesis inhibitor (that is, it stops target bacterial cells from replicating.)
Thus the findings could have implications for the use of tetracyclines in livestock. In particular, environmental accumulation of the drugs could have detrimental ecological outcomes.
The studies were performed by scientists working at the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland. The findings have been published in the journal Cell Reports. The report's title is "Tetracyclines Disturb Mitochondrial Function across Eukaryotic Models: A Call for Caution in Biomedical Research."
Discussing the findings, Cole Haynes, a researcher of mitochondrial dysfunction at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, told The Scientist: “This is a straightforward and clear story. It’s a nice job by the authors showing that tetracyclines really have mitochondrial consequences [that scientists] have not thought about seriously.”