Effects of iron and phytic acid on production of extracellular radicals by Enterococcus faecalis

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2004 Dec;229(11):1186-95. doi: 10.1177/153537020422901114.


Enterococcus faecalis is a human intestinal commensal that produces extracellular superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radical while colonizing the intestinal tract. To determine whether dietary factors implicated in colorectal cancer affect oxidant production by E. faecalis, radicals were measured in rats colonized with this microorganism while on diets supplemented with iron or phytic acid. Hydroxyl radical activity was measured by assaying for aromatic hydroxylation products of D-phenylalanine using reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography and electrochemical detection. In vitro, as expected, iron enhanced, and phytic acid decreased, hydroxyl radical formation by E. faecalis. For rats colonized with E. faecalis given supplemental dietary iron (740 mg elemental iron as ferric phosphate per kg diet) or phytic acid (1.2% w/w), no differences were found in concentrations of urinary ortho- or meta- isomers of D-phenylalanine compared to rats on a basal diet. Aqueous radicals in colonic contents were further assessed ex vivo by electron spin resonance using 5,5-dimethyl-1-pyrroline-N-oxide as a spin trap. Mixtures of thiyl (sulfur-centered) and oxygen-centered radicals were detected across all diets. In vitro, similar spectra were observed when E. faecalis was incubated with hydrogen sulfide, air-oxidized cysteine, or an alkylsulfide, as typical sulfur-containing compounds that might occur in colonic contents. In conclusion, intestinal colonization with E. faecalis in a rat model generates both thiyl and oxygen-centered radicals in colonic contents. Radical formation, however, was not significantly altered by short-term dietary supplementation with iron or phytic acid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements / microbiology
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Enterococcus faecalis / drug effects
  • Enterococcus faecalis / metabolism*
  • Free Radicals / analysis
  • Free Radicals / metabolism*
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / metabolism
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Iron / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Phenylalanine / urine
  • Phytic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Rats


  • Free Radicals
  • Phenylalanine
  • Phytic Acid
  • Iron