is a critical phytopathogen that causes foodborne spoilage and produces a polyketide mycotoxin, alternariol (AOH), and its derivative, alternariol monomethyl ether (AME). In this study, the inhibitory effects of the essential oil citral on the fungal growth and mycotoxin production of A. alternata
were evaluated. Our findings indicated that 0.25 μL/mL (222.5 μg/mL) of citral completely suppressed mycelial growth as the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC). Moreover, the 1/2MIC of citral could inhibit more than 97% of the mycotoxin amount. Transcriptomic profiling was performed by comparative RNA-Seq analysis of A. alternata
with or without citral treatment. Out of a total of 1334 differentially expressed genes (DEGs), 621 up-regulated and 713 down-regulated genes were identified under citral stress conditions. Numerous DEGs for cell survival, involved in ribosome and nucleolus biogenesis, RNA processing and metabolic processes, and protein processing, were highly expressed in response to citral. However, a number of DEGs responsible for the metabolism of several carbohydrates and amino acids, sulfate and glutathione metabolism, the metabolism of xenobiotics and transporter activity were significantly more likely to be down-regulated. Citral induced the disturbance of cell integrity through the disorder of gene expression, which was further confirmed by the fact that exposure to citral caused irreversibly deleterious disruption of fungal spores and the inhibition of ergosterol biosynthesis. Citral perturbed the balance of oxidative stress, which was likewise verified by a reduction of total antioxidative capacity. In addition, citral was able to modulate the down-regulation of mycotoxin biosynthetic genes, including pksI
. The results provide new insights for exploring inhibitory mechanisms and indicate citral as a potential antifungal and antimytoxigenic alternative for cereal storage.
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