School of Biomedical SciencesThe University of Queensland
Cite this article as:
Nguyen, T., Clare, B., Guo, W. et al. Eur Biophys J (2005) 34: 389. doi:10.1007/s00249-005-0468-x
Parabens are alkyl esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid used as preservatives in a wide range of food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products (Soni et al. Food Chem. Toxicol. 39:513–532, 2001). Despite their common use for over 50 years, their mechanism of action is still unclear. In this study we examined the effects of ethyl and propyl paraben, on gating of the E. coli mechanosensitive channel of large conductance (MscL) reconstituted into azolectin liposomes. We found that propyl and ethyl paraben spontaneously activate MscL. Moreover, the addition of propyl paraben caused an increase in MscL activity and the lowering of p1/2, the pressure at which the MscL was opened 50% of the time, the ΔGo, the free energy required to open the MscL, and the parameter α, which describes the channel sensitivity to pressure. In addition, in silico studies showed that propyl paraben binds to the channel gate of the MscL. The mechanosensitive channel of small conductance was also found to be spontaneously activated by parabens. In summary, our study indicates that one of the previously unidentified mechanisms of action of parabens as antimicrobial agents is via an interaction with the mechanosensitive channels to upset the osmotic gradients in bacteria.
Mechanosensitive channelsParabensMechanosensitive channel of large conductanceMechanosensitive channel of small conductancep-Hydroxybenzoic acid