FDA-Approved Amoxapine Effectively Promotes Macrophage Control of Mycobacteria by Inducing Autophagy

Jia Wang, Jian Sha, Emily Strong, Ashok K. Chopra, Sunhee Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Antibiotic resistance poses a significant hurdle in combating global public health crises, prompting the development of novel therapeutics. Strategies to enhance the intracellular killing of mycobacteria by targeting host defense mechanisms offer numerous beneficial effects, which include reducing cytotoxicity caused by current lengthy anti-tubercular treatment regimens and slowing or circumventing the development of multidrug-resistant strains. The intracellular pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis infects macrophages and exploits host machinery to survive and multiply. Using a cell-based screen of FDA-approved drugs, we identified an antidepressant, Amoxapine, capable of inhibiting macrophage cytotoxicity during mycobacterial infection. Notably, this reduced cytotoxicity was related to the enhanced intracellular killing of Mycobacterium bovis BCG and M. tuberculosis within human and murine macrophages. Interestingly, we discovered that postinfection treatment with Amoxapine inhibited mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) activation, resulting in the induction of autophagy without affecting autophagic flux in macrophages. Also, inhibition of autophagy by chemical inhibitor 3-MA or knockdown of an essential component of the autophagic pathway, ATG16L1, significantly diminished Amoxapine's intracellular killing effects against mycobacteria in the host cells. Finally, we demonstrated that Amoxapine treatment enhanced host defense against M. tuberculosis in mice. In conclusion, our study identified Amoxapine as a novel host-directed drug that enhances the intracellular killing of mycobacteria by induction of autophagy, with concomitant protection of macrophages against death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • antidepressant
  • autophagy
  • host-directed therapeutics
  • mTOR
  • macrophages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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