Aim: This study investigated the quorum sensing, biofilm and type three secretion system (TTSS) inhibitory properties of citrus flavonoids.
Methods and results: Flavonoids were tested for their ability to inhibit quorum sensing using Vibrio harveyi reporter assay. Biofilm assays were carried out in 96-well plates. Inhibition of biofilm formation in Escherichia coli O157:H7 and V. harveyi by citrus flavonoids was measured. Furthermore, effect of naringenin on expression of V. harveyi TTSS was investigated by semi-quantitative PCR. Differential responses for different flavonoids were observed for different cell-cell signalling systems. Among the tested flavonoids, naringenin, kaempferol, quercetin and apigenin were effective antagonists of cell-cell signalling. Furthermore, these flavonoids suppressed the biofilm formation in V. harveyi and E. coli O157:H7. In addition, naringenin altered the expression of genes encoding TTSS in V. harveyi.
Conclusion: The results of the study indicate a potential modulation of bacterial cell-cell communication, E. coli O157:H7 biofilm and V. harveyi virulence, by flavonoids especially naringenin, quercetin, sinensetin and apigenin. Among the tested flavonoids, naringenin emerged as potent and possibly a nonspecific inhibitor of autoinducer-mediated cell-cell signalling. Naringenin and other flavonoids are prominent secondary metabolites present in citrus species. Therefore, citrus, being a major source of some of these flavonoids and by virtue of widely consumed fruit, may modulate the intestinal microflora.
Significance and impact of the study: Currently, a limited number of naturally occurring compounds have demonstrated their potential in inhibition of cell-cell communications; therefore, citrus flavonoids may be useful as lead compounds for the development of antipathogenic agents.