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Mechanism of chlorpromazine binding by Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria

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Chlorpromazine forms charge-transfer complexes with xanthene dyes in bacteria. These complexes permit the differentiation of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria in both light and polarization microscopy. The birefringence induced by the charge-transfer complex might explain the molecular basis of bacterial staining.

The charge-transfer complexes formed between chorpromazine and xanthene dyes accumulate in the bacterial cell, mainly inside the bacterial cell wall. The complexes give the cells a color, which depends on the chemical composition of the staining structure, and in particular the polysaccharides of the cell wall in bacteria.

Metachromatic granules were seen inside Gram-positive bacteria after chlorpromazine and rose bengal staining. Although the nature of these granules remains unclear, this type of binding may have a role in the inhibition of biochemical processes in the bacterial cells.

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Molnár, J., Fischer, J. & Nakamura, M.J. Mechanism of chlorpromazine binding by Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 62, 309–314 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00572599

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Key words

  • chlorpromazine
  • xanthene dyes
  • charge-transfer complexes
  • birefringence
  • Gram-positive and Gram-negative cell wall stain