Dietary phytochemicals as quorum sensing inhibitors

Fitoterapia. 2007 Jun;78(4):302-10. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2007.03.009. Epub 2007 Apr 11.


Quorum sensing (QS) is a cell density dependent expression of species in bacteria mediated by hormone like compounds called autoinducers (AI). Several processes responsible for successful establishment of bacterial infection are mediated by QS. Inhibition of QS is therefore being considered as a new target for antimicrobial chemotherapy. Dietary phytochemicals are secondary metabolites in plants known to have several health benefits including antimicrobial activity. However, their ability to inhibit QS has never been studied. Our objective was to investigate the effect of sub-lethal concentrations (SLC) of bioactive dietary phytochemical extracts from common dietary fruit, herb and spice extracts on modulating QS mediated by AI in model bioassay test systems. QS inhibition was measured in violacein pigment producing Chromobacterium violaceum O26 (CVO26) and CV 31532 system, mediated by AI known as acylated homeserine lactone (AHL). We also investigated the effect of the sub-lethal concentrations of the extracts on swarming motility of pathogens Escherichia coli (EC)O157:H7 and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA-01). Our results indicate that all extracts significantly inhibited quorum sensing. The mechanism of inhibition appeared to be combination of interfering with AHL activity and modulating the synthesis of AHL's. Our results also indicated that various phytochemical extracts which inhibited QS also inhibited swarming of pathogenic bacteria, known to be modulated by QS. The observation that phytochemicals from foods can inhibit QS related processes opens up an exciting new strategy for antimicrobial chemotherapy and lead to the discovery of new category of antibiotics which can overcome the issues related to antimicrobial resistance.

MeSH terms

  • 4-Butyrolactone / administration & dosage
  • 4-Butyrolactone / analogs & derivatives*
  • 4-Butyrolactone / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biological Assay
  • Chromobacterium / drug effects
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / drug effects
  • Quorum Sensing / drug effects*
  • Quorum Sensing / physiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • homoserine lactone
  • 4-Butyrolactone