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The swarming motility of Pseudomonas aeruginosa is blocked by cranberry proanthocyanidins and other tannin-containing materials

January 26, 2012
O'May C, Tufenkji N
Appl Environ Microbiol 77(9):3061-7

Bacterial motility plays a key role in the colonization of surfaces by bacteria and the subsequent formation of resistant communities of bacteria called biofilms. Derivatives of cranberry fruit, predominantly condensed tannins called proanthocyanidins (PACs) have been reported to interfere with bacterial adhesion, but the effects of PACs and other tannins on bacterial motilities remain largely unknown. In this study, we investigated whether cranberry PAC (CPAC) and the hydrolyzable tannin in pomegranate (PG; punicalagin) affected the levels of motilities exhibited by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This bacterium utilizes flagellum-mediated swimming motility to approach a surface, attaches, and then further spreads via the surface-associated motilities designated swarming and twitching, mediated by multiple flagella and type IV pili, respectively. Under the conditions tested, both CPAC and PG completely blocked swarming motility but did not block swimming or twitching motilities. Other cranberry-containing materials and extracts of green tea (also rich in tannins) were also able to block or impair swarming motility. Moreover, swarming bacteria were repelled by filter paper discs impregnated with many tannin-containing materials. Growth experiments demonstrated that the majority of these compounds did not impair bacterial growth. When CPAC- or PG-containing medium was supplemented with surfactant (rhamnolipid), swarming motility was partially restored, suggesting that the effective tannins are in part acting by a rhamnolipid-related mechanism. Further support for this theory was provided by demonstrating that the agar surrounding tannin-induced nonswarming bacteria was considerably less hydrophilic than the agar area surrounding swarming bacteria. This is the first study to show that natural compounds containing tannins are able to block P. aeruginosa swarming motility and that swarming bacteria are repelled by such compounds.