• EHEC;
  • flavonoids;
  • naringenin;
  • quorum sensing;
  • real-time PCR;
  • TTSS


Aim:  This study investigated the quorum sensing, biofilm and type three secretion system (TTSS) inhibitory properties of citrus flavonoids.

Methods and Results:  Flavonoids were tested for their ability to inhibit quorum sensing using Vibrio harveyi reporter assay. Biofilm assays were carried out in 96-well plates. Inhibition of biofilm formation in Escherichia coli O157:H7 and V. harveyi by citrus flavonoids was measured. Furthermore, effect of naringenin on expression of V. harveyi TTSS was investigated by semi-quantitative PCR. Differential responses for different flavonoids were observed for different cell–cell signalling systems. Among the tested flavonoids, naringenin, kaempferol, quercetin and apigenin were effective antagonists of cell–cell signalling. Furthermore, these flavonoids suppressed the biofilm formation in V. harveyi and E. coli O157:H7. In addition, naringenin altered the expression of genes encoding TTSS in V. harveyi.

Conclusion:  The results of the study indicate a potential modulation of bacterial cell–cell communication, E. coli O157:H7 biofilm and V. harveyi virulence, by flavonoids especially naringenin, quercetin, sinensetin and apigenin. Among the tested flavonoids, naringenin emerged as potent and possibly a nonspecific inhibitor of autoinducer-mediated cell–cell signalling. Naringenin and other flavonoids are prominent secondary metabolites present in citrus species. Therefore, citrus, being a major source of some of these flavonoids and by virtue of widely consumed fruit, may modulate the intestinal microflora.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  Currently, a limited number of naturally occurring compounds have demonstrated their potential in inhibition of cell–cell communications; therefore, citrus flavonoids may be useful as lead compounds for the development of antipathogenic agents.