The lipopeptidic antibiotic daptomycin is reported to reduce experimental tobramycin nephrotoxicity (D. Beauchamp, M. Pellerin, P. Gourde, M. Pettigrew and M. G. Bergeron, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 34:139-147, 1990; C. A. Wood, H. C. Finkbeiner, S. J. Kohlhepp, P. W. Kohnen, and D. C. Gilbert, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 33:1280-1285, 1989). In an attempt to explain these results, the in vivo and in vitro interactions between daptomycin and tobramycin were studied. Tobramycin alone and preincubated with negatively charged phospholipid bilayers (liposomes) was dialyzed against increasing concentrations of daptomycin in buffer at pH 5.4. A significant drop in the concentration of tobramycin was observed when daptomycin was added to the opposite half cells. Furthermore, daptomycin induced a concentration-dependent release of lipid-bound tobramycin. Gold labeling experiments showed that daptomycin could be incorporated into phospholipid layers. Female Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with daptomycin alone, with tobramycin alone, or with the combination over 2 to 10 days. Levels of daptomycin and tobramycin in serum were similar in all groups. The levels of tobramycin in the renal cortex increased significantly with time and, on day 10, reached values of 654 +/- 122 and 844 +/- 298 micrograms/g of tissue (mean +/- standard deviation; not significant) in animals treated with tobramycin and the combination of daptomycin-tobramycin, respectively. No significant difference was observed in the levels of tobramycin in the kidneys between animals treated with tobramycin or the daptomycin-tobramycin combination at any time. By contrast, daptomycin levels were significantly higher in the renal cortexes of animals treated with daptomycin-tobramycin in comparison with those in the renal cortexes of animals treated with daptomycin alone on days 6,8, and 10 (P < 0.01). For immunogold labeling studies, animals were killed 4 h after a single injection of daptomycin alone or daptomycin in combination with tobramycin. Daptomycin was found throughout the matrixes of the lysosomes of proximal tubular cells of animals treated with daptomycin alone. In animals treated with the combination of daptomycin and tobramycin, daptomycin was associated with intralysosomal myeloid bodies. Our results suggest that daptomycin might attenuate experimental aminoglycoside nephrotoxicity by interacting with the aminoglycoside, perhaps electrostatically, and thereby protecting intracellular targets of toxicity.