Tannins are plant-derived polyphenols with antimicrobial effects. The mechanism of tannin toxicity towards Escherichia coli was determined by using an extract from Acacia mearnsii (Black wattle) as a source of condensed tannins (proanthocyanidins). E. coli growth was inhibited by tannins only when tannins were exposed to oxygen. Tannins auto-oxidize, and substantial hydrogen peroxide was generated when they were added to aerobic media. The addition of exogenous catalase permitted growth in tannin medium. E. coli mutants that lacked HPI, the major catalase, were especially sensitive to tannins, while oxyR mutants that constitutively overexpress antioxidant enzymes were resistant. A tannin-resistant mutant was isolated in which a promoter-region point mutation increased the level of HPI by 10-fold. Our results indicate that wattle condensed tannins are toxic to E. coli in aerobic medium primarily because they generate H2O2. The oxidative stress response helps E. coli strains to overcome their inhibitory effect.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology