Author(s): Raafat D, von Bargen K, Haas A, Sahl HG
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Abstract Chitosan is a polysaccharide biopolymer that combines a unique set of versatile physicochemical and biological characteristics which allow for a wide range of applications. Although its antimicrobial activity is well documented, its mode of action has hitherto remained only vaguely defined. In this work we investigated the antimicrobial mode of action of chitosan using a combination of approaches, including in vitro assays, killing kinetics, cellular leakage measurements, membrane potential estimations, and electron microscopy, in addition to transcriptional response analysis. Chitosan, whose antimicrobial activity was influenced by several factors, exhibited a dose-dependent growth-inhibitory effect. A simultaneous permeabilization of the cell membrane to small cellular components, coupled to a significant membrane depolarization, was detected. A concomitant interference with cell wall biosynthesis was not observed. Chitosan treatment of Staphylococcus simulans 22 cells did not give rise to cell wall lysis; the cell membrane also remained intact. Analysis of transcriptional response data revealed that chitosan treatment leads to multiple changes in the expression profiles of Staphylococcus aureus SG511 genes involved in the regulation of stress and autolysis, as well as genes associated with energy metabolism. Finally, a possible mechanism for chitosan's activity is postulated. Although we contend that there might not be a single classical target that would explain chitosan's antimicrobial action, we speculate that binding of chitosan to teichoic acids, coupled with a potential extraction of membrane lipids (predominantly lipoteichoic acid) results in a sequence of events, ultimately leading to bacterial death.
This article was published in Appl Environ Microbiol
and referenced in Pharmaceutica Analytica Acta