Effects of Selected Egyptian Honeys on the Cellular Ultrastructure and the Gene Expression Profile of Escherichia coli

PLoS One. 2016 Mar 8;11(3):e0150984. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0150984. eCollection 2016.


The purpose of this study was to: (i) evaluate the antibacterial activities of three Egyptian honeys collected from different floral sources (namely, citrus, clover, and marjoram) against Escherichia coli; (ii) investigate the effects of these honeys on bacterial ultrastructure; and (iii) assess the anti-virulence potential of these honeys, by examining their impacts on the expression of eight selected genes (involved in biofilm formation, quorum sensing, and stress survival) in the test organism. The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of the honey samples against E. coli ATCC 8739 were assessed by the broth microdilution assay in the presence and absence of catalase enzyme. Impacts of the honeys on the cellular ultrastructure and the expression profiles of the selected genes of E. coli were examined using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) analysis, respectively. The susceptibility tests showed promising antibacterial activities of all the tested honeys against E. coli. This was supported by the TEM observations, which revealed "ghost" cells lacking DNA, in addition to cells with increased vacuoles, and/or with irregular shrunken cytoplasm. Among the tested honeys, marjoram exhibited the highest total antibacterial activity and the highest levels of peroxide-dependent activity. The qPCR analysis showed that all honey-treated cells share a similar overall pattern of gene expression, with a trend toward reduced expression of the virulence genes of interest. Our results indicate that some varieties of the Egyptian honey have the potential to be effective inhibitor and virulence modulator of E. coli via multiple molecular targets.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / ultrastructure*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial* / drug effects
  • Honey* / analysis
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Transcriptome*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.