Common plant flavonoids prevent the assembly of amyloid curli fibres and can interfere with bacterial biofilm formation

Environ Microbiol. 2020 Dec;22(12):5280-5299. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.15216. Epub 2020 Sep 22.


Like all macroorganisms, plants have to control bacterial biofilm formation on their surfaces. On the other hand, biofilms are highly tolerant against antimicrobial agents and other stresses. Consequently, biofilms are also involved in human chronic infectious diseases, which generates a strong demand for anti-biofilm agents. Therefore, we systematically explored major plant flavonoids as putative anti-biofilm agents using different types of biofilms produced by Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. In Escherichia coli macrocolony biofilms, the flavone luteolin and the flavonols myricetin, morin and quercetin were found to strongly reduce the extracellular matrix. These agents directly inhibit the assembly of amyloid curli fibres by driving CsgA subunits into an off-pathway leading to SDS-insoluble oligomers. In addition, they can interfere with cellulose production by still unknown mechanisms. Submerged biofilm formation, however, is hardly affected. Moreover, the same flavonoids tend to stimulate macrocolony and submerged biofilm formation by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. For Bacillus subtilis, the flavonone naringenin and the chalcone phloretin were found to inhibit growth. Thus, plant flavonoids are not general anti-biofilm compounds but show species-specific effects. However, based on their strong and direct anti-amyloidogenic activities, distinct plant flavonoids may provide an attractive strategy to specifically combat amyloid-based biofilms of some relevant pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid / metabolism*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biofilms / drug effects*
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • Extracellular Polymeric Substance Matrix / drug effects
  • Extracellular Polymeric Substance Matrix / metabolism
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Protein Multimerization / drug effects
  • Species Specificity


  • Amyloid
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Flavonoids