How Cabbage Family Plants Stop Harmful Bacteria Enzymes

Jenn Hoskins
21st April, 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 veggies like cabbage showed potential to fight the tough bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii
  • These vegetables contain metabolites that can inhibit bacterial growth and the activity of harmful enzymes, reducing infection severity
  • Specific metabolites in these plants were identified as effective against the bacterium, comparable to known lipase inhibitors used in treatments
In the fight against infections, scientists continually seek 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 bacterium, Acinetobacter baumannii. This microbe is notorious for causing hospital-acquired infections and displaying resistance to multiple antibiotics, making it a significant concern for public health. Acinetobacter baumannii possesses an arsenal of weapons, including lipases, enzymes that can break down fats and penetrate host tissues, leading to severe infections. Currently, there are limited means to thwart these lipases effectively. The Cairo University study sought to explore whether compounds found in Brassica vegetables could serve as a new line of defense, particularly focusing on their ability to inhibit the bacterial lipases and thereby reduce infection severity. The research involved analyzing six different Brassica greens: Chinese cabbage (CC), curly and Tuscan kale (CK and TK), red and green Pak choi (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 within these plants. These metabolites include glucosinolates[2], which have previously been shown to break down into biologically active compounds like isothiocyanates when the plant is damaged or consumed. Glucosinolates and their hydrolysis products have been the subject of past studies due to their nutritional effects and potential health benefits. They are known to be present in high concentrations in cruciferous plants[2], and their breakdown products have demonstrated antibacterial activity against human pathogens[3], suggesting a role in managing infectious diseases. Furthermore, the study at Cairo University incorporated 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, displayed strong interactions with the lipase enzyme, as evidenced by molecular docking studies. These interactions were comparable to those of orlistat, a known lipase inhibitor. The antibacterial properties of Brassica vegetables are further supported by a comprehensive profiling of polyphenols in Brassica species microgreens, which include 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. Moreover, the study aligns 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, underscores their potential as antimicrobial agents. The Cairo University study not only bridges the gap in scientific evidence regarding the use of Brassica vegetables in managing A. baumannii infections but also positions these common greens as a promising source of natural lipase inhibitors. The discovery of these bioactive compounds within Brassica vegetables could pave the way for developing new treatments for bacterial infections, particularly those caused by antibiotic-resistant strains. As the world grapples with the rise of such resistant bacteria, the findings of this study offer a glimmer of hope and a potential path to innovative, plant-based therapeutic strategies.

VegetablesBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

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

Published 19th April, 2024

Related Studies

2) Glucosinolates: Molecular structure, breakdown, genetic, bioavailability, properties and healthy and adverse effects.

3) The antimicrobial effects of glucosinolates and their respective enzymatic hydrolysis products on bacteria isolated from the human intestinal tract.

4) Profiling polyphenols in five Brassica species microgreens by UHPLC-PDA-ESI/HRMS(n.).

5) Antibacterial activity and mode of action of selected glucosinolate hydrolysis products against bacterial pathogens.

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