Enhancing curcumin's solubility and antibiofilm activity via silica surface modification†
Bacterial biofilms are microbial communities in which bacterial cells in sessile state are mechanically and chemically protected against foreign agents, thus enhancing antibiotic resistance. The delivery of active compounds to the inside of biofilms is often hindered due to the existence of the biofilm extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and to the poor solubility of drugs and antibiotics. A possible strategy to overcome the EPS barrier is the incorporation of antimicrobial agents into a nanocarrier, able to penetrate the matrix and deliver the active substance to the cells. Here, we report the synthesis of antimicrobial curcumin-conjugated silica nanoparticles (curc-NPs) as a possibility for dealing with these issues. Curcumin is a known antimicrobial agent and to overcome its low solubility in water it was grafted onto the surface of silica nanoparticles, the latter functioning as nanocarrier for curcumin into the biofilm. Curc-NPs were able to impede the formation of model P. putida biofilms up to 50% and disrupt mature biofilms up to 54% at 2.5 mg mL−1. Cell viability of sessile cells in both cases was also considerably affected, which is not observed for curcumin delivered as a free compound at the same concentration. Furthermore, proteomics of extracted EPS matrix of biofilms grown in the presence of free curcumin and curc-NPs revealed differences in the expression of key proteins related to cell detoxification and energy production. Therefore, curc-NPs are presented here as an alternative for curcumin delivery that can be exploited not only to other bacterial strains but also to further biological applications.