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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Dec;70(12):6951-6.

Colorimetric method for identifying plant essential oil components that affect biofilm formation and structure.

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Department of Biology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA.


The specific biofilm formation (SBF) assay, a technique based on crystal violet staining, was developed to locate plant essential oils and their components that affect biofilm formation. SBF analysis determined that cinnamon, cassia, and citronella oils differentially affected growth-normalized biofilm formation by Escherichia coli. Examination of the corresponding essential oil principal components by the SBF assay revealed that cinnamaldehyde decreased biofilm formation compared to biofilms grown in Luria-Bertani broth, eugenol did not result in a change, and citronellol increased the SBF. To evaluate these results, two microscopy-based assays were employed. First, confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) was used to examine E. coli biofilms cultivated in flow cells, which were quantitatively analyzed by COMSTAT, an image analysis program. The overall trend for five parameters that characterize biofilm development corroborated the findings of the SBF assay. Second, the results of an assay measuring growth-normalized adhesion by direct microscopy concurred with the results of the SBF assay and CLSM imaging. Viability staining indicated that there was reduced toxicity of the essential oil components to cells in biofilms compared to the toxicity to planktonic cells but revealed morphological damage to E. coli after cinnamaldehyde exposure. Cinnamaldehyde also inhibited the swimming motility of E. coli. SBF analysis of three Pseudomonas species exposed to cinnamaldehyde, eugenol, or citronellol revealed diverse responses. The SBF assay could be useful as an initial step for finding plant essential oils and their components that affect biofilm formation and structure.

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