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Antimicrobial mechanism of monocaprylate

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Monoglyceride esters of fatty acids occur naturally and encompass a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity. Monocaprylate is generally regarded as safe (GRAS) and can function both as an emulsifier and as a preservative in food. However, knowledge about its mode of action is lacking. The aim of this study was therefore to elucidate the mechanism behind monocaprylate's antimicrobial effect. The cause of cell death in Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus xylosus, and Zygosaccharomyces bailii was investigated by examining monocaprylate's effect on cell structure, membrane integrity, and its interaction with model membranes. Changes in cell structure were visible by atomic force microscopy (AFM), and propidium iodide staining showed membrane disruption, indicating the membrane as a site of action. This indication was confirmed by measuring calcein leakage from membrane vesicles exposed to monocaprylate. AFM imaging of supported lipid bilayers visualized the integration of monocaprylate into the liquid disordered, and not the solid ordered, phase of the membrane. The integration of monocaprylate was confirmed by quartz crystal microbalance measurements, showing an abrupt increase in mass and hydration of the membrane after exposure to monocaprylate above a threshold concentration. We hypothesize that monocaprylate destabilizes membranes by increasing membrane fluidity and the number of phase boundary defects. The sensitivity of cells to monocaprylate will therefore depend on the lipid composition, fluidity, and curvature of the membrane.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Pages (from-to)2957-65
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Research areas

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents, Caprylates, Cell Membrane, Escherichia coli, Fluoresceins, Lipid Bilayers, Microbial Viability, Microscopy, Atomic Force, Permeability, Propidium, Staining and Labeling, Staphylococcus, Zygosaccharomyces

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