Synergistic Adverse Effects of Azithromycin and Hydroxychloroquine on Human Cardiomyocytes at a Clinically Relevant Treatment Duration

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Adverse effects of drug combinations and their underlying mechanisms are highly relevant for safety evaluation, but often not fully studied. Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and azithromycin (AZM) were used as a combination therapy in the treatment of COVID-19 patients at the beginning of the pandemic, leading to higher complication rates in comparison to respective monotherapies. Here, we used human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs) to systematically investigate the effects of HCQ, AZM, and their combination on the structure and functionality of cardiomyocytes, and to better understand the underlying mechanisms. Our results demonstrate synergistic adverse effects of AZM and HCQ on electrophysiological and contractile function of iPSC-CMs. HCQ-induced prolongation of field potential duration (FPDc) was gradually increased during 7-day treatment period and was strongly enhanced by combination with AZM, although AZM alone slightly shortened FPDc in iPSC-CMs. Combined treatment with AZM and HCQ leads to higher cardiotoxicity, more severe structural disarrangement, more pronounced contractile dysfunctions, and more elevated conduction velocity, compared to respective monotreatments. Mechanistic insights underlying the synergistic effects of AZM and HCQ on iPSC-CM functionality are provided based on increased cellular accumulation of HCQ and AZM as well as increased Cx43-and Nav1.5-protein levels.


Original languageEnglish
Article number220
Number of pages24
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

External IDs

WOS 000826773600001
ORCID /0000-0002-8375-8233/work/142236377
ORCID /0000-0003-1526-997X/work/142247243


Sustainable Development Goals


  • Azithromycin, Cardiomyocytes, Conduction velocity, Drug interaction, Drug testing, Field potential duration, Human induced pluripotent stem cells, Hydroxychloroquine