Natural brominated phenoxyphenols kill persistent and biofilm-incorporated cells of MRSA and other pathogenic bacteria. Academic Article uri icon


  • Due to a high unresponsiveness to chemotherapy, biofilm formation is an important medical problem that frequently occurs during infection with many bacterial pathogens. In this study, the marine sponge-derived natural compounds 4,6-dibromo-2-(2',4'-dibromophenoxy)phenol and 3,4,6-tribromo-2-(2',4'-dibromophenoxy)phenol were found to exhibit broad antibacterial activity against medically relevant gram-positive and gram-negative pathogens. The compounds were not only bactericidal against both replicating and stationary phase-persistent planktonic cells of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa; they also killed biofilm-incorporated cells of both species while not affecting biofilm structural integrity. Moreover, these compounds were active against carbapenemase-producing Enterobacter sp. This simultaneous activity of compounds against different growth forms of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria is rare. Genome sequencing of spontaneous resistant mutants and proteome analysis suggest that resistance is mediated by downregulation of the bacterial EIIBC phosphotransferase components scrA and mtlA in MRSA likely leading to a lower uptake of the molecules. Due to their only moderate cytotoxicity against human cell lines, phenoxyphenols provide an interesting new scaffold for development of antimicrobial agents with activity against planktonic cells, persisters and biofilm-incoporated cells of ESKAPE pathogens. KEY POINTS: Brominated phenoxyphenols kill actively replicating and biofilm-incorporated bacteria. Phosphotransferase systems mediate uptake of brominated phenoxyphenols. Downregulation of phosphotransferase systems mediate resistance.

published proceedings

  • Appl Microbiol Biotechnol

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • van Geelen, L., Kaschani, F., Sazzadeh, S. S., Adeniyi, E. T., Meier, D., Proksch, P., ... Kalscheuer, R.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • van Geelen, Lasse||Kaschani, Farnusch||Sazzadeh, Shabnam S||Adeniyi, Emmanuel T||Meier, Dieter||Proksch, Peter||Pfeffer, Klaus||Kaiser, Markus||Ioerger, Thomas R||Kalscheuer, Rainer

publication date

  • July 2020