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Investigation into the antimicrobial activity of fumarate against Listeria monocytogenes and its mode of action under acidic conditions

Barnes, R. H. and Karatzas, K. A. G. (2020) Investigation into the antimicrobial activity of fumarate against Listeria monocytogenes and its mode of action under acidic conditions. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 324. 108614. ISSN 0168-1605

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2020.108614


Organic acids such as fumarate are commonly used as antimicrobials in foods. Apart from the classical mechanism of intracellular dissociation, weak acids are active through important additional mechanisms which are not well-defined. Fumarate, based on its low dissociation constants is expected to have a low antimicrobial activity which is not the case, suggesting additional antimicrobial effects. Previously, fumarate has been shown to inhibit the GAD system of E. coli and therefore, we investigated for first time how it affects this system in Listeria monocytogenes. We found that fumarate is highly antimicrobial towards L. monocytogenes under acidic conditions. We also show that in cell lysates and similarly to E. coli, fumarate inhibits the GAD system of L. monocytogenes. However, despite the inhibition and in contrast to E. coli, L. monocytogenes is able to counteract this and achieve a higher extracellular GAD output (measured by GABA export) in the presence of fumarate compared to its absence. The latter is achieved by a dramatic 9.44-fold increase in the transcription of gadD2 which is the main component of the extracellular GAD system. Interestingly, although maleate, the cis-isomer of fumarate results in a more dramatic 48.5-fold gadD2 upregulation than that of fumarate, the final GADe output is lower suggesting that maleate might be a stronger inhibitor of the GAD system. In contrast, the GADe removes more protons in the presence of fumarate than in the presence of HCl at the same pH. All the above suggest that there are additional effects by fumarate which might be associated with the intracellular GAD system (GADi) or other acid resistance systems. We assessed the GADi output by looking at the intracellular GABA pools which were not affected by fumarate. However, there are multiple pathways (e.g. GABA shunt) that can affect GABAi pools and we cannot conclusively suggest that GADi is affected. Furthermore, similarly to maleate, fumarate is able to eliminate L. monocytogenes in biofilms under acidic conditions. Overall, fumarate is a good candidate for L. monocytogenes decontamination and biofilm removal which is not toxic compared to the toxic maleate.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences > Food Microbial Sciences Research Group
ID Code:91061


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