(±)-catechin, a root exudate of the invasive centaurea stoebe lam. (Spotted knapweed) exhibits bacteriostatic activity against multiple soil bacterial populations

J Chem Ecol. 2011 Sep;37(9):1044-53. doi: 10.1007/s10886-011-0005-6. Epub 2011 Sep 1.


Understanding the effects of allelopathic plant chemicals on soil microorganisms is critical to understanding their ecological roles and importance in exotic plant invasion. Centaurea stoebe Lam. (spotted knapweed), an aggressive invasive weed in North America, secretes a racemic mixture of (±)-catechin as a root exudate. This enantiomeric, polyphenolic compound has been reported to have allelopathic effects on surrounding flora and microflora. To better understand how catechin affects microbial communities in the root zone of spotted knapweed, we assessed its impact on the total culturable bacterial component and numerous individual bacterial populations from Romanian (native range) and Montana (invaded range) soils. Catechin suppressed total culturable count numbers from the bacterial community and inhibited growth of some, but not all, soil bacterial populations tested. The native soil bacterial community was significantly more resistant to inhibitory effects of catechin than either the invaded or non-invaded soils. We further show that the inhibitory effect of catechin on nine different soil bacterial strains from seven genera was reversible, demonstrating that it acts via a bacteriostatic rather than bactericidal mechanism. These findings suggest that catechin might affect bacterial community composition and activity in the root zone.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Catechin / metabolism*
  • Centaurea / metabolism*
  • Plant Roots / metabolism*
  • Soil Microbiology*


  • Catechin