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Arch Microbiol. 2006 Jan;184(5):271-8. Epub 2005 Dec 3.

Differential antibacterial activity of genistein arising from global inhibition of DNA, RNA and protein synthesis in some bacterial strains.

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Department of Molecular Biology, University of Gdańsk, Kładki 24, 80-822 Gdańsk, Poland.


Antibacterial activities of various flavonoids have been reported previously, but mechanism(s) of their action on bacterial cells remain(s) largely unknown. Here, we investigated effects of genistein, an isoflavone, and representatives of other flavonoids: daidzein (another isoflavone), apigenin (a flavone), naringenin (a flavanone) and kaempferol (a flavonol), on commonly used laboratory strains of model bacterial species: Escherichia coli, Vibrio harveyi and Bacillus subtilis. We found that E. coli was resistant to all tested flavonoids at concentrations up to 0.1 mM, while high sensitivity of V. harveyi to most of them (except daidzein, which exhibited significantly less pronounced effect) was observed. Effects of the flavonoids on B. subtilis were relatively intermediate to the two extremes, i.e., E. coli and V. harveyi. Action of genistein on bacterial cells was investigated in more detail to indicate changed cell morphology (formation of filamentous cells) of V. harveyi and drastic inhibition of global synthesis of DNA and RNA as shortly as 15 min after addition of this isoflavone to a bacterial culture to a final concentration of 0.1 mM. Protein synthesis inhibition was also apparent, but delayed. Both cell morphology and synthesis of nucleic acids and proteins were unaffected in E. coli cultures under analogous conditions. Studies on cell survival suggest that genistein is a bacteriostatic agent rather than a bactericidal compound.

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