Identification and effects of maize silk volatiles on cultures of Aspergillus flavus

J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Mar;48(3):921-5. doi: 10.1021/jf990061k.


Volatiles generated from corn silks of individual genotypes of maize were found to exhibit differences in biological activities when the volatiles were exposed to 5-day solid cultures of Aspergillus flavus. In inverted potato dextrose-agar Petri plate bioassays, it was found that volatiles emitted from silks of the different maize genotypes had a profound effect on the growth of the fungus and, consequently, aflatoxin production. To determine the underlying cause for this bioactivity, volatiles emitted from the maize silks were trapped on Tenax glass columns and were analyzed by GC-MS. Aflatoxin field-resistant maize genotypes exhibited a larger relative concentration of the antifungal aldehyde, furfural (2-furancarboxaldehyde), when compared to the relative concentrations of the field-susceptible varieties tested. In a closed-container 5-day study, it was observed that fresh 1- and 4-day-old corn silk samples of aflatoxin-resistant maize genotypes emitted higher concentrations of furfural compared to those from susceptible genotypes. This observation probably explains the reason for the bioactivity observed in the in vitro bioassays, and the presence of furfural appears to contribute to a defense mechanism for protecting the developing maize kernel from fungal attack.

MeSH terms

  • Aflatoxins / metabolism
  • Antifungal Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Aspergillus flavus / drug effects*
  • Furaldehyde / isolation & purification
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Plant Structures / chemistry
  • Zea mays / chemistry*
  • Zea mays / genetics


  • Aflatoxins
  • Antifungal Agents
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Furaldehyde