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J Bacteriol. Jul 1996; 178(13): 3715–3721.
PMCID: PMC232627

Polyamines decrease Escherichia coli outer membrane permeability.

Abstract

The permeability of the outer membranes of gram-negative bacteria to hydrophilic compounds is mostly due to the presence of porin channels. We tested the effects of four polyamines (putrescine, cadaverine, spermidine, and spermine) on two processes known to depend on intact porin function: fluxes of beta-lactam antibiotics in live cells and chemotaxis. In both cases, inhibition was observed. Measurements of the rate of permeation of cephaloridine and of chemotaxis in swarm plates and capillary assays were used to determine the concentration dependence of this modulation. The effective concentration ranges depended on the nature of the polyamine and varied from submillimolar for spermine to tens of millimolar for cadaverine. Both OmpC and OmpF porins were inhibited, although the effects on OmpC appeared to be milder. These results are in agreement with our observations that polyamines inhibit porin-mediated ion fluxes in electrophysiological experiments, and they suggest that a low-affinity polyamine binding site might exist in these porins. These results reveal the potential use of porins as targets for blocking agents and suggest that polyamines may act as endogenous modulators of outer membrane permeability.

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Selected References

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