Investigation of potential anti-pneumococcal effects of L-sulforaphane and metabolites: Insights from synchrotron-FTIR microspectroscopy and molecular docking studies

Julia Liang, Anita Mantelos, Zheng Quan Toh, Stephanie M. Tortorella, Katherine Ververis, Jitraporn Vongsvivut, Keith R. Bambery, Paul V. Licciardi, Andrew Hung, Tom C. Karagiannis

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Streptococcus pneumoniae infection can lead to pneumococcal disease, a major cause of mortality in children under the age of five years. In low- and middle-income country settings where pneumococcal disease burden is high, vaccine use is low and widespread antibiotic use has led to increased rates of multi-drug resistant pneumococci. L-sulforaphane (LSF), derived from broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, has established anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-microbial properties. Hence, we sought to investigate the potential role of LSF against pneumococcal infection. Using a combination of in vitro and computational methods, the results showed that LSF and relevant metabolites had a potential to reduce pneumococcal adherence through modulation of host receptors, regulation of inflammation, or through direct modification of bacterial factors. Treatment with LSF and metabolites reduced pneumococcal adherence to respiratory epithelial cells. Synchrotron-Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy (S-FTIR) revealed biochemical changes in protein and lipid profiles of lung epithelial cells following treatment with LSF or metabolites. Molecular docking studies of 116 pneumococcal and 89 host factors revealed a potent effect for the metabolite LSF-glutathione (GSH). A comprehensive list of factors involved in interactions between S. pneumoniae and host cells was compiled to construct a bacterium and host interaction network. Network analysis revealed plasminogen, fibronectin, and RrgA as key factors involved in pneumococcal-host interactions. Therefore, we propose that these constitute critical targets for direct inhibition by LSF and/or metabolites, which may disrupt pneumococcal-host adherence. Overall, our findings further enhance understanding of the potential role of LSF to modulate pneumococcal-host dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107568
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Graphics and Modelling
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Anti-microbial
  • Inflammation
  • L-sulforaphane
  • Pneumococcal adherence
  • Pneumococci
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae

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