Investigation of functional and morphological changes in Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus cells induced by Origanum compactum essential oil


Angeles Manresa, Laboratori de Microbiologia, Facultat de Farmàcia, Universitat de Barcelona, c/ Joan XXIII s/n, 08028 Barcelona, Spain. E-mail:


Aims:  Evaluation of the cellular effects of Origanum compactum essential oil on Pseudomonas aeruginosa ATCC 27853 and Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 29213.

Methods and Results:  The damage induced by O. compactum essential oil on these two strains has been studied using different techniques: plate count, potassium leakage, flow cytometry (FC) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The results showed that oil treatment led to reduction of cells viability and dissipated potassium ion gradients. Flow cytometric analysis showed that oil treatment promoted the accumulation of bis-oxonol and the membrane-impermeable nucleic acid stain propidium iodide (PI), indicating the loss of membrane potential and permeability. The ability to reduce 5-cyano-2,3-ditolyl tetrazolium chloride was inhibited. Unlike in Ps. aeruginosa, membrane potential and membrane permeability in Staph. aureus cells were affected by oil concentration and contact time. Finally, TEM showed various structural effects. Mesosome-like structures were seen in oil-treated Staph. aureus cells whereas in Ps. aeruginosa, coagulated cytoplasmic material and liberation of membrane vesicles were observed, and intracellular material was seen in the surrounding environment. Both FC and TEM revealed that the effects in Ps. aeruginosa were greater than in Staph. aureus.

Conclusions:  Oregano essential oil induces membrane damage showed by the leakage of potassium and uptake of PI and bis-oxonol. Ultrastructural alterations and the loss of cell viability were observed.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  Understanding the mode of antibacterial effect of the oil studied is of a great interest in it further application as natural preservative in food or pharmaceutical industries.