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Antibacterial Mechanism of Allyl Isothiocyanate

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Allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), a natural compound in plants belonging to the family Cruciferae, has been shown to have strong antimicrobial activity in liquid media as well as in its vapor form. To understand its antimicrobial mechanism, AITC was tested for bactericidal activities to Salmonella Montevideo, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes Scott A at different stages of growth and was compared with streptomycin, penicillin G, and polymyxin B, each of known antibacterial mechanisms. Bactericidal activities were determined by measuring bacterial viability and leakage of metabolites. To determine its effects on membrane permeability, β-galactosidase activity was examined after exposure of E. coli K-12 strain 3.300 to the three antibiotics and to AITC. The two gram-negative bacteria, Salmonella Montevideo and E. coli O157:H7, were more sensitive to AITC and to polymyxin B than the gram-positive L. monocytogenes. AITC and polymyxin B were effective bactericidal agents to bacteria at all growth stages, whereas penicillin G and streptomycin did not exhibit bactericidal activity to stationary cells. High A 260 and A 280 values of cellular filtrate and β-galactosidase activity were obtained after treatments of AITC and polymyxin B. These data indicated that AITC was most similar to polymyxin B with respect to its antibacterial effect on cell membranes and on leakage of cellular metabolites. Gaseous AITC caused metabolite leakages, measurable increases in β-galactosidase activity, and reduction of viable bacteria. The effectiveness of AITC in inhibiting bacteria at all growth stages and its strong activity in vapor phase support its application in food preservation.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, P. O. Box 110370, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611-0370, USA 2: Microbiology and Cell Science Department, P. O. Box 110700, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611-0700, USA 3: Nutrition and Food Science Department, 328 Spidle Hall, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849-5605, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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