S-Aryl-l-cysteine sulphoxides and related organosulphur compounds alter oral biofilm development and AI-2-based cell–cell communication




To design and synthesize a library of structurally related, small molecules related to homologues of compounds produced by the plant Petiveria alliacea and determine their ability to interfere with AI-2 cell–cell communication and biofilm formation by oral bacteria. Many human diseases are associated with persistent bacterial biofilms. Oral biofilms (dental plaque) are problematic as they are often associated with tooth decay, periodontal disease and systemic disorders such as heart disease and diabetes.

Methods and Results

Using a microplate-based approach, a bio-inspired small molecule library was screened for anti-biofilm activity against the oral species Streptococcus mutans UA159, Streptococcus sanguis 10556 and Actinomyces oris MG1. To complement the static screen, a flow-based BioFlux microfluidic system screen was also performed under conditions representative of the human oral cavity. Several compounds were found to display biofilm inhibitory activity in all three of the oral bacteria tested. These compounds were also shown to inhibit bioluminescence by Vibrio harveyi and were thus inferred to be quorum sensing (QS) inhibitors.


Due to the structural similarity of these compounds to each other, and to key molecules in AI-2 biosynthetic pathways, we propose that these molecules potentially reduce biofilm formation via antagonism of QS or QS-related pathways.

Significance and Impact of the Study

This study highlights the potential for a non-antimicrobial-based strategy, focused on AI-2 cell–cell signalling, to control the development of dental plaque. Considering that many bacterial species use AI-2 cell–cell signalling, as well as the increased concern of the use of antimicrobials in healthcare products, such an anti-biofilm approach could also be used to control biofilms in environments beyond the human oral cavity.