The aim of the present study was the chemical characterization of some medically relevant essential oils (tea tree, clove, cinnamon bark, thyme, and eucalyptus) and the investigation of antibacterial effect of the components of these oils by use of a direct bioautographic method. Thin-layer chromatography (TLC) was combined with biological detection in this process. The chemical composition of the oils was determined by gas chromatography (GC) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Eucalyptol (84.2%) was the main component of the essential oil of eucalyptus, eugenol (83.7%) of clove oil, and trans-cinnamic aldehyde (73.2%), thymol (49.9%), and terpinen-4-ol (45.8%) of cinnamon bark, thyme and tea tree oils, respectively. Antibacterial activity of the separated components of these oils as well as of their pure main components (eucalyptol, eugenol, trans-cinnamic aldehyde and thymol) was observed against the Gram-negative luminescence gene-tagged plant pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv. maculicola (Psmlux) and the Gram-negative, naturally luminescent marine bacterium Vibrio fischeri. On the whole, the antibacterial activity of the essential oils could be related to their main components, but the minor constituents may be involved in this process. trans-Cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol were the most active compounds in TLC-bioautography. The sensitivity of TLC-bioautographic method can be improved by using luminescent test bacteria. This method is more cost-effective and provides more reliable results in comparison with conventional microbiological methods, e.g., disc-diffusion technique.
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