Differential gene expression for investigation of Escherichia coli biofilm inhibition by plant extract ursolic acid


After 13,000 samples of compounds purified from plants were screened, a new biofilm inhibitor, ursolic acid, has been discovered and identified. Using both 96-well microtiter plates and a continuous flow chamber with COMSTAT analysis, 10 µg of ursolic acid/ml inhibited Escherichia coli biofilm formation 6- to 20-fold whenadded upon inoculation and when added to a 24-h biofilm; however,ursolic acid was not toxic to E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa,Vibrio harveyi, and hepatocytes. Similarly, 10 µg of ursolicacid/ml inhibited biofilm formation by >87% for P. aeruginosain both complex and minimal medium and by 57% for V. harveyiin minimal medium. To investigate the mechanism of this nontoxicinhibition on a global genetic basis, DNA microarrays were used to study the gene expression profiles of E. coli K-12 grown with or without ursolic acid. Ursolic acid at 10 and 30 µg/ml induced significantly (P < 0.05) 32 and 61 genes, respectively, and 19 genes were consistently induced. The consistently induced genes have functions for chemotaxis and mobility (cheA, tap, tar, and motAB), heat shock response (hslSTV and mopAB), and unknown functions (such as b1566 and yrfHI). There were 31 and 17 genes repressed by 10 and 30 µg of ursolic acid/ml,respectively, and 12 genes were consistently repressed that have functions in cysteine synthesis (cysK) and sulfur metabolism(cysD), as well as unknown functions (such as hdeAB and yhaDFG). Ursolic acid inhibited biofilms without interfering with quorum sensing, as shown with the V. harveyi AI-1 and AI-2 reporter systems. As predicted by the differential gene expression, deleting motAB counteracts ursolic acid inhibition (the paralyzed cells no longer become too motile). Based on the differential gene expression, it was also discovered that sulfur metabolism (through cysB) affects biofilm formation (in the absence of ursolic acid).




Ren D, Zuo R, González Barrios AF, Bedzyk LA, Eldridge GR, Pasmore ME, Wood TK, "Differential gene expression for investigation of Escherichia coli biofilm inhibition by plant extract ursolic acid," Appl Environ Microbiol, 2005 71(7):4022-4034
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