Inhibition of Aspergillus flavus and selected gram-positive bacteria by chelation of essential metal cations by polyphosphates

S. J. Knabel, H. W. Walker, P. A. Hartman

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37 Scopus citations


A simple well-plate technique was utilized to determine the effect of various metals on the growth of microorganisms in media containing different polyphosphates. Aspergillus flavus and four gram-positive bacteria were completely inhibited by media containing 1% of various alkaline polyphosphates, whereas four gramnegative bacteria were not. Significant differences were observed between the type of polyphosphate added, the type of metal added, and the species of gram-positive bacterium inhibited. The addition of Mg2+ stimulated growth of A. flavus and Bacillus cereus in the presence of tetrasodium pyrophosphate, whereas Mn2+ permitted growth of A. flavus and Staphylococcus aureus in the presence of sodium hexametaphosphate. Iron supplementation allowed the growth of S. aureus and Listeria monocytogenes on mediacontaining 1 % tetrasodium pyrophosphate. A method for determining the amount of calcium and magnesium in water was modified to detect free Mg2+ by replacing EDTA with phosphate. The addition of free Mg2+, but not Mg2+ chelated by tetrasodium pyrophosphate, permitted the growth of B. cereus on a medium containing tetrasodium pyrophosphate. It is speculated that polyphosphates specifically inhibited A. flavus and gram-positive bacteria by removing essential metals from cation-binding sites located within their cell walls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)360-365
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of food protection
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology


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