How cabbage family plants stop harmful bacteria enzymes

Jenn Hoskins
April 21, 2024

How cabbage family plants stop harmful bacteria enzymes

Image source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key findings

  • In a Cairo University study, compounds in Brassica vegetables such as cabbage showed potential to combat the tough bacteria Acinetobacter baumannii.
  • These vegetables contain metabolites that can inhibit bacterial growth and the activity of harmful enzymes, reducing the severity of the infection
  • Specific metabolites in these plants were identified as effective against the bacteria, similar to known lipase inhibitors used in treatments
In the fight against infections, scientists are constantly looking for innovative solutions. A recent study by researchers at Cairo University(1) has highlighted the potential of Brassica vegetables – such as cabbage and kale – in combating a particularly troublesome bacteria, Acinetobacter baumannii. This microbe is notorious for causing hospital-acquired infections and exhibiting resistance to multiple antibiotics, making it a major public health concern. Acinetobacter baumannii has an arsenal of weapons, including lipases, enzymes that can break down fats and invade host tissue, leading to serious infections. Currently, there are limited tools to effectively thwart these lipases. The Cairo University study sought to investigate whether compounds found in Brassica vegetables could serve as a new line of defense, focusing particularly on their ability to inhibit the bacterial lipases and thereby reduce the severity of the infection. The study involved analyzing six different Brassica vegetables: Chinese cabbage (CC), kale and Tuscan kale (CK and TK), red and green bok choy (RP and GP), and Brussels sprouts (BR). The team used advanced techniques, such as liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry (LC-QTOF-MS/MS), to identify a variety of secondary metabolites in these plants. These metabolites include glucosinolates(2), which have previously been shown to break down into biologically active compounds such as isothiocyanates when the plant is damaged or consumed. Glucosinolates and their hydrolysis products have been the subject of previous research due to their nutritional effects and potential health benefits. They are known to be present in high concentrations in cruciferous plants(2)and their degradation products have demonstrated antibacterial activity against human pathogens(3), suggesting a role in controlling infectious diseases. Furthermore, the research at Cairo University included hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) and principal component analysis (PCA) to understand the chemical profiles of the extracts and their variability. It was found that RP and GP exhibited the highest antibacterial activity against A. baumannii. When examining the effects on bacterial growth and lipase activity, CK was the most effective, inhibiting lipase activity by 26%. The significance of these findings lies in the identification of nine specific metabolites that correlated with the observed antibacterial and lipase inhibitory activities. These metabolites, including glucosinolates and phenolic compounds, showed strong interactions with the lipase enzyme, as shown by molecular docking studies. These interactions were similar to those of orlistat, a known lipase inhibitor. The antibacterial properties of Brassica vegetables are further supported by extensive profiling of polyphenols in microgreens from Brassica species, including compounds such as anthocyanins and flavonol glycosides.(4). These polyphenols are associated with health benefits and have been identified as good sources of food polyphenols. Furthermore, the study is consistent with previous research showing that isothiocyanates, a group of compounds derived from glucosinolates, have significant antimicrobial activity against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.(3)(5). The disruptive effect of these compounds on bacterial cell membranes, leading to potassium leakage and other cellular damage, underlines their potential as antimicrobials. The Cairo University research not only bridges the gap in scientific evidence regarding the use of Brassica vegetables in controlling A. baumannii infections, but also positions these common vegetables as a promising source of natural lipase inhibitors. The discovery of these bioactive compounds in Brassica vegetables could pave the way for the development of new treatments for bacterial infections, especially those caused by antibiotic-resistant strains. As the world grapples with the emergence of such drug-resistant bacteria, the findings of this study offer a glimmer of hope and a potential path to innovative plant-based therapeutic strategies.



Main study

1) Evidence for the inhibitory effect of Brassica plants against Acinetobacter baumannii lipases: phytochemical analysis, in vitro and molecular docking studies.

Published on April 19, 2024

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