AFM study of the differential inhibitory effects of the green tea polyphenol (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria

Y. Cui, Y. J. Oh, J. Lim, M. Youn, I. Lee, H. K. Pak, W. Park, W. Jo, S. Park

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(-)-Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a main constituent of tea catechins, affects Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria differently; however, the underlying mechanisms are not clearly understood. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) was used to compare morphological alterations in Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria induced by EGCG and by H 2O 2 at sub-minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs). EGCG initially induced aggregates in the cell envelopes of Staphylococcus aureus and eventually caused cell lysis, which was not observed in cells treated with H 2O 2. It initially induced nanoscale perforations or microscale grooves in the cell envelopes of Escherichia coli O157:H7 which eventually disappeared, similar to E. coli cells treated with H 2O 2. An E. coli O157:H7 tpx mutant, with a defect in thioredoxin-dependent thiol peroxidase (Tpx), was more severely damaged by EGCG when compared with its wild type. Similar differing effects were observed in other Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria when exposed to EGCG; it caused aggregated in Streptococcus mutans, while it caused grooves in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. AFM results suggest that the major morphological changes of Gram-negative bacterial cell walls induced by EGCG depend on H 2O 2 release. This is not the case for Gram-positive bacteria. Oxidative stress in Gram-negative bacteria induced by EGCG was confirmed by flow cytometry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-87
Number of pages8
JournalFood Microbiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Feb 1



  • Atomic force microscopy
  • EGCG
  • Escherichia coli
  • H O
  • Staphylococcus aeruginosa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology

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