Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Mikrobiologie

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Institut für Biologie | Mikrobiologie | Hengge group | Research | Anti-biofilm compounds from natural sources


Abb.: Regine Hengge


Anti-biofilm compounds from natural sources

Bacteria in biofilms are highly resistant against antibiotics, disinfectants and the attacks of the immune system. As a consequence, biofilm formation is often associated with chronic infections or bacterial colonisation of medical implants that are refractory to antibiotic treatment. In addition, some biofilm-related proteins as e.g. curli fibres are highly inflammatory. Thus, high expression of CsgD and curli fibres observed in the German outbreak E. coli O104:H4 strain at 37oC may have contributed to inflammation and the high incidence of progression to haemolytic uremic syndrome. Furthermore, biofilms grow on all kinds of submerged surfaces in technical environments which can result in major damage and financial losses.

For all these reasons, anti-biofilm compounds are sought after intensively. Promising targets are general biofilm features such as amyloid fibre formation in the biofilm matrix of many species or the ubiquitous c-di-GMP synthesis. Since living organisms are likely to protect themselves against being colonized by bacterial biofilms, one may expect to find compounds with anti-biofilm activities in plants, animals, algae or other microorganisms.


Current work in our group follows the following lines:

  • Testing extracts from plants used in traditional herbal medicine for anti-biofilm activity
  • Using our 'toolbox' of reporters for regulation and functional aspects of biofilms of E. coli, we try to elucidate the mechanisms of action of active extracts and to identify the active compounds.


Cooperation Partner

Dr. Stefanos Karachalios, Althaea, Anatoli, Crete



Richter, A.M., T.L. Povolotsky, L.H. Wieler, and R. Hengge (2014) C-di-GMP signaling and biofilm-related properties of the Shiga toxin-producing 2011 German outbreak Escherichia coli O104:H4. EMBO Mol. Med. 6, 1622-1637.


Serra, D.O., F. Mika, A.M. Richter, and R. Hengge (2016) The green tea polyphenol EGCG inhibits E. coli biofilm formation by impairing amyloid curli fibre assembly and downregulating the biofilm regulator CsgD via the σE-dependent sRNA RybB. Mol. Microbiol., 101, 136–151.


Abb.: Diego O. Serra and Regine Hengge