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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 Feb;80(3):959-71. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03460-13. Epub 2013 Nov 22.

Investigating the responses of Cronobacter sakazakii to garlic-drived organosulfur compounds: a systematic study of pathogenic-bacterium injury by use of high-throughput whole-transcriptome sequencing and confocal micro-raman spectroscopy.

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Key Laboratory of Food Nutrition and Safety, Ministry of Education of China, Tianjin University of Science and Technology, Tianjin, China.


We present the results of a study using high-throughput whole-transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) and vibrational spectroscopy to characterize and fingerprint pathogenic-bacterium injury under conditions of unfavorable stress. Two garlic-derived organosulfur compounds were found to be highly effective antimicrobial compounds against Cronobacter sakazakii, a leading pathogen associated with invasive infection of infants and causing meningitis, necrotizing entercolitis, and bacteremia. RNA-seq shows changes in gene expression patterns and transcriptomic response, while confocal micro-Raman spectroscopy characterizes macromolecular changes in the bacterial cell resulting from this chemical stress. RNA-seq analyses showed that the bacterial response to ajoene differed from the response to diallyl sulfide. Specifically, ajoene caused downregulation of motility-related genes, while diallyl sulfide treatment caused an increased expression of cell wall synthesis genes. Confocal micro-Raman spectroscopy revealed that the two compounds appear to have the same phase I antimicrobial mechanism of binding to thiol-containing proteins/enzymes in bacterial cells generating a disulfide stretching band but different phase II antimicrobial mechanisms, showing alterations in the secondary structures of proteins in two different ways. Diallyl sulfide primarily altered the α-helix and β-sheet, as reflected in changes in amide I, while ajoene altered the structures containing phenylalanine and tyrosine. Bayesian probability analysis validated the ability of principal component analysis to differentiate treated and control C. sakazakii cells. Scanning electron microscopy confirmed cell injury, showing significant morphological variations in cells following treatments by these two compounds. Findings from this study aid in the development of effective intervention strategies to reduce the risk of C. sakazakii contamination in the food production environment and on food contact surfaces, reducing the risks to susceptible consumers.

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