Autoinducer-2 (AI-2) molecules are used by several microorganisms to modulate various processes, including bioluminescence, biofilm formation, and virulence expression. Certain food matrices, including ground beef extracts, possess compounds capable of inhibiting AI-2 activity. In the present study, we identified and characterized these AI-2 inhibitors from ground beef extract using hexane solvent extraction and gas chromatography. Gas chromatographic analysis revealed the presence of several fatty acids such as palmitic acid (C16:0), stearic acid (C18:0), oleic acid (C18:1ω9), and linoleic acid (C18:2ω6) that were capable of inhibiting AI-2 activity. These fatty acids were tested (using Vibrio harveyi BB170 and MM32 reporter strains) at different concentrations (1, 5, and 10 mM) to identify differences in the level of AI-2 activity inhibition. AI-2 inhibition ranged from 25 to 90%. A mixture of these fatty acids (prepared at concentrations equivalent to those present in the ground beef extract) produced 52 to 65% inhibition of AI-2 activity. The fatty acid mixture also negatively influenced Escherichia coli K-12 biofilm formation. These results demonstrate that both medium- and long-chain fatty acids in ground beef have the ability to interfere with AI-2–based cell signaling.

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