Bacterial biofilms are multicellular aggregates in which cells are embedded in an extracellular matrix of self-produced biopolymers. Being refractory to antibiotic treatment and host immune systems, biofilms are involved in most chronic infections, and anti-biofilm agents are being searched for urgently. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) was recently shown to act against biofilms by strongly interfering with the assembly of amyloid fibres and the production of phosphoethanolamin-modified cellulose fibrils. Mechanistically, this includes a direct inhibition of the fibre assembly, but also triggers a cell envelope stress response that down-regulates the synthesis of these widely occurring biofilm matrix polymers. Based on its anti-amyloidogenic properties, EGCG seems useful against biofilms involved in cariogenesis or chronic wound infection. However, EGCG seems inefficient against or may even sometimes promote biofilms which rely on other types of matrix polymers, suggesting that searching for 'magic bullet' anti-biofilm agents is an unrealistic goal. Combining molecular and ecophysiological aspects in this review also illustrates why plants control the formation of biofilms on their surfaces by producing anti-amyloidogenic compounds such as EGCG. These agents are not only helpful in combating certain biofilms in chronic infections but even seem effective against the toxic amyloids associated with neuropathological diseases.
Keywords: antimicrobial; bacterial biofilm; bacterial cellulose; bacterial exopolysaccharides; chronic infection; curli fibre; functional amyloid.