Mechanism of antimicrobial activity of honeybee (Apis mellifera) venom on Gram-negative bacteria: Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas spp

Izlem Haktanir, Maria Masoura, Fani Th Mantzouridou, Konstantinos Gkatzionis

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Honeybee venom (Apitoxin, BV), a secretion substance expelled from the venom gland of bees, has being reported as antimicrobial against various bacterial species; however, the mechanism of action remains uncharacterized. In this study, the antibacterial activity of BV was investigated on hygiene indicator Escherichia coli and the environmental pathogen and spoilage bacterial species, Pseudomonas putida and Pseudomonas fluorescens. An array of methods was combined to elucidate the mode of action of BV. Viability by culture on media was combined with assessing cell injury with flow cytometry analysis. ATP depletion was monitored as an indicator to metabolic activity of cells, by varying BV concentration (75, 225and 500 µg/mL), temperature (25 [Formula: see text] and 37 [Formula: see text]), and time of exposure (0 to 24 h). Venom presented moderate inhibitory effect on E. coli by viability assay, caused high membrane permeability and significant ATP loss where the effect was increased by increased concentration. The viability of P. putida was reduced to a greater extent than other tested bacteria at comparable venom concentrations and was dictated by exposure time. On the contrary, P. fluorescens appeared less affected by venom based on viability; however, flow cytometry and ATP analysis highlighted concentration- and time-dependent effect of venom. According to Transmission Electron Microscopy results, the deformation of the cell wall was evident for all species. This implies a common mechanism of action of the BV which is as follows: the cell wall destruction, change of membrane permeability, leakage of cell contents, inactivation of metabolic activity and finally cell death.

Original languageEnglish
Article number54
JournalAMB Express
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2021


  • Antimicrobial mechanism
  • Apitoxin
  • Cell morphology
  • Membrane integrity
  • Metabolic reduction


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