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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 520578, 9 pages
Research Article

The Mechanism Underlying the Antibacterial Activity of Shikonin against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

1Department of Herbal Crop Research, National Institute of Horticultural and Herbal Science, Rural Development Administration (RDA), Eumsung, Chungbuk 369-873, Republic of Korea
2Department of Oriental Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy and Wonkwang-Oriental Medicines Research Institute, Wonkwang University, Iksan, Jeonbuk 570-749, Republic of Korea
3Department of Food Technology and Services, Eulji University, Seongnam, Gyeonggi 461-713, Republic of Korea

Received 22 April 2015; Accepted 2 July 2015

Academic Editor: Isabel Andújar

Copyright © 2015 Young-Seob Lee et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Shikonin (SKN), a highly liposoluble naphthoquinone pigment isolated from the roots of Lithospermum erythrorhizon, is known to exert antibacterial, wound-healing, anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, and antitumor effects. The aim of this study was to examine SKN antibacterial activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The SKN was analyzed in combination with membrane-permeabilizing agents Tris and Triton X-100, ATPase inhibitors sodium azide and N,N′-dicyclohexylcarbodiimide, and S. aureus-derived peptidoglycan; the effects on MRSA viability were evaluated by the broth microdilution method, time-kill test, and transmission electron microscopy. Addition of membrane-permeabilizing agents or ATPase inhibitors together with a low dose of SKN potentiated SKN anti-MRSA activity, as evidenced by the reduction of MRSA cell density by 75% compared to that observed when SKN was used alone; in contrast, addition of peptidoglycan blocked the antibacterial activity of SKN. The results indicate that the anti-MRSA effect of SKN is associated with its affinity to peptidoglycan, the permeability of the cytoplasmic membrane, and the activity of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters. This study revealed the potential of SKN as an effective natural antibiotic and of its possible use to substantially reduce the use of existing antibiotic may also be important for understanding the mechanism underlying the antibacterial activity of natural compounds.