Unravelling the structural and molecular basis responsible for the anti-biofilm activity of zosteric acid


The natural compound zosteric acid, or p-(sulfoxy)cinnamic acid (ZA), is proposed as an alternative biocide-free agent suitable for preventive or integrative anti-biofilm approaches. Despite its potential, the lack of information concerning the structural and molecular mechanism of action involved in its anti-biofilm activity has limited efforts to generate more potent anti-biofilm strategies. In this study a 43-member library of small molecules based on ZA scaffold diversity was designed and screened against Escherichia coli to understand the structural requirements necessary for biofilm inhibition at sub-lethal concentrations. Considerations concerning the relationship between structure and anti-biofilm activity revealed that i) the para-sulfoxy ester group is not needed to exploit the anti-biofilm activity of the molecule, it is the cinnamic acid scaffold that is responsible for anti-biofilm performance; ii) the anti-biofilm activity of ZA derivatives depends on the presence of a carboxylate anion and, consequently, on its hydrogen-donating ability; iii) the conjugated aromatic system is instrumental to the anti-biofilm activities of ZA and its analogues. Using a protein pull-down approach, combined with mass spectrometry, the herein-defined active structure of ZA was matrix-immobilized, and was proved to interact with the E. coli NADH:quinone reductase, WrbA, suggesting a possible role of this protein in the biofilm formation process.




Cattò C, Dell’Orto S, Villa F, Villa S, Gelain A, Vitali A, Marzano V, Baroni S, Forlani F, ʺUnravelling the structural and molecular basis responsible for the anti-biofilm activity of zosteric acid,ʺ PLoS ONE 2015 10(7): e0131519
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