Impact of Phytochemicals on Viability and Cereulide Toxin Synthesis in Bacillus cereus Revealed by a Novel High-Throughput Method, Coupling an AlamarBlue-Based Assay with UPLC-MS/MS

Toxins (Basel). 2021 Sep 21;13(9):672. doi: 10.3390/toxins13090672.


Due to its food-poisoning potential, Bacillus cereus has attracted the attention of the food industry. The cereulide-toxin-producing subgroup is of particular concern, as cereulide toxin is implicated in broadscale food-borne outbreaks and occasionally causes fatalities. The health risks associated with long-term cereulide exposure at low doses remain largely unexplored. Natural substances, such as plant-based secondary metabolites, are widely known for their effective antibacterial potential, which makes them promising as ingredients in food and also as a surrogate for antibiotics. In this work, we tested a range of structurally related phytochemicals, including benzene derivatives, monoterpenes, hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives and vitamins, for their inhibitory effects on the growth of B. cereus and the production of cereulide toxin. For this purpose, we developed a high-throughput, small-scale method which allowed us to analyze B. cereus survival and cereulide production simultaneously in one workflow by coupling an AlamarBlue-based viability assay with ultraperformance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS). This combinatory method allowed us to identify not only phytochemicals with high antibacterial potential, but also ones specifically eradicating cereulide biosynthesis already at very low concentrations, such as gingerol and curcumin.

Keywords: Bacillus cereus; cereulide; food additives; high-throughput micro-scale method.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus cereus / drug effects*
  • Bacillus cereus / metabolism*
  • Biological Assay / methods
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Depsipeptides / metabolism*
  • Depsipeptides / toxicity*
  • Foodborne Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Foodborne Diseases / microbiology*
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacokinetics*
  • Phytochemicals / therapeutic use*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods


  • Depsipeptides
  • Phytochemicals