Supercritical CO2 induces marked changes in membrane phospholipids composition in Escherichia coli K12
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Supercritical carbon dioxide (SC-CO2) treatment is one of the most promising alternative techniques for pasteurization of both liquid and solid food products. The inhibitory effect of SC-CO2 on bacterial growth has been investigated in different species, but the precise mechanism of action remains unknown. Membrane permeabilization has been proposed to be the first event in SC-CO2-mediated inactivation. Flow cytometry, high performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry and NMR analyses were performed to investigate the effect of SC-CO2 treatment on membrane lipid profile and membrane permeability in Escherichia coli K12. After 15 min of SC-CO2 treatment at 120 bar and 35 ° C, the majority of bacterial cells dissipated their membrane potential (95 %) and lost membrane integrity, as 81 % become partially permeabilized and 18 % fully permeabilized. Membrane permeabilization was associated with a 20 % decrease in bacterial biovolume and to a strong (> 50 %) reduction in phosphatidylglycerol (PG) membrane lipids, without altering the fatty acid composition and the degree of unsaturation of acyl chains. PGs are thought to play an important role in membrane stability, by reducing motion of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) along the membrane bilayer, therefore promoting the formation of inter-lipid hydrogen bonds. In addition, the decrease in intracellular pH induced by SC-CO2 likely alters the chemical properties of phospholipids and the PE/PG ratio. Biophysical effects of SC-CO2 thus cause a strong perturbation of membrane architecture in E. coli, and such alterations are likely associated with its strong inactivation effect.