International journal of food microbiology

Ethyl p-coumarate exerts antifungal activity in vitro and in vivo against fruit Alternaria alternata via membrane-targeted mechanism.

PMID 29702314


The fungus Alternaria alternata can cause food contamination by black spot rot and food safety issues due to the production of mycotoxins. In particular, A. alternata can infect many fresh fruits and vegetables and lead to considerable postharvest decay during storage and processing. The use of plant-derived products in postharvest disease management may be an acceptable alternative to traditional chemical fungicides. The aim of this study was to assess the antifungal activity of ethyl p-coumarate (EpCA) against Alternaria alternata in vitro and in vivo, and to determine the underlying mechanism. Results indicated that EpCA exhibited pronounced antifungal activity against in vitro mycelial growth of A. alternata, with half-inhibition concentration of 176.8 μg/mL. Spore germination of the pathogen was inhibited by EpCA in a dose-dependent manner. Moreover, in vivo test confirmed that both 100 and 800 μg/mL EpCA significantly reduced disease development of black spot rot in jujube fruit caused by A. alternata. The EpCA treatments increased plasma membrane permeability as great leakage of intercellular electrolytes, soluble proteins and sugars of A. alternata occurred during incubation. The EpCA treatments also caused increase of the influx of propidium iodide, a fluorescence dye binding nucleus DNA, into the affected spores, indicating the disrupted plasma membrane integrity. Observations of ultrastructure further evidenced the damage to plasma membrane and morphology of A. alternata caused by EpCA, which resulted in distortion, sunken and shrivelled of spores and mycelia of the pathogen. In addition, fluorometric assay by confocal laser scanning microscopy confirmed that the EpCA treatments induced endogenous reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation in the spores of A. alternata, with stronger and more stable accumulation of ROS at higher concentration of EpCA. Therefore, heavy oxidative damage to cellular membranes and organelles might happen as demonstrated by the severe occurrence of lipid peroxidation of the pathogen treated with EpCA. Taken together, these results indicated that EpCA exerts antifungal activity via membrane-targeted mechanism and it would be a promising candidate to control postharvest diseases of fruits.