Antibacterial free fatty acids: activities, mechanisms of action and biotechnological potential
Untreated eggs of the tick Amblyomma hebraeum Koch (Acari: Ixodidae) exhibited antimicrobial activity (AMA) against Gram-negative but not Gram-positive bacteria; eggs denuded of wax by solvent extraction showed no AMA. The unfractionated egg wax extract, however, showed AMA against Gram-positive but not Gram-negative bacteria, as also shown by Arrieta et al. (Exp Appl Acarol 39: 297–313, 2006). In this study we partitioned the egg wax into various fractions, using a variety of techniques, analyzed their compositions, and tested them for AMA. The crude aqueous extract exhibited AMA. However, although more than 30 metabolites were identified in this extract by nuclear magnetic resonance analysis, none of them seemed likely to be responsible for the observed AMA. In the crude organic extract, cholesterol esters were the most abundant lipids, but were devoid of AMA. Fatty acids (FAs), with chain lengths between C13 and C26 were the next most abundant lipids. After lipid fractionation and gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy, free FAs, especially C16:1 and C18:2, accounted for most of the AMA in the organic extract. The material responsible for AMA in the crude aqueous extract remains unidentified. No AMA was detected in the intracellular contents of untreated eggs.