Antifungal effects of citronella oil against Aspergillus niger ATCC 16404

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2013 Aug;97(16):7483-92. doi: 10.1007/s00253-012-4460-y. Epub 2012 Oct 19.


Essential oils are aromatic oily liquids obtained from some aromatic plant materials. Certain essential oils such as citronella oil contain antifungal activity, but the antifungal effect is still unknown. In this study, we explored the antifungal effect of citronella oil with Aspergillus niger ATCC 16404. The antifungal activity of citronella oil on conidia of A. niger was determined by poisoned food technique, broth dilution method, and disc volatility method. Experimental results indicated that the citronella oil has strong antifungal activity: 0.125 (v/v) and 0.25 % (v/v) citronella oil inhibited the growth of 5 × 10⁵ spore/ml conidia separately for 7 and 28 days while 0.5 % (v/v) citronella oil could completely kill the conidia of 5 × 10⁵ spore/ml. Moreover, the fungicidal kinetic curves revealed that more than 90 % conidia (initial concentration is 5 × 10⁵ spore/ml) were killed in all the treatments with 0.125 to 2 % citronella oil after 24 h. Furthermore, with increase of citronella oil concentration and treatment time, the antifungal activity was increased correspondingly. The 0.5 % (v/v) concentration of citronella oil was a threshold to kill the conidia thoroughly. The surviving conidia treated with 0.5 to 2 % citronella oil decreased by an order of magnitude every day, and no fungus survived after 10 days. With light microscope, scanning electron microscope, and transmission electron microscope, we found that citronella oil could lead to irreversible alteration of the hyphae and conidia. Based on our observation, we hypothesized that the citronella oil destroyed the cell wall of the A. niger hyphae, passed through the cell membrane, penetrated into the cytoplasm, and acted on the main organelles. Subsequently, the hyphae was collapsed and squashed due to large cytoplasm loss, and the organelles were severely destroyed. Similarly, citronella oil could lead to the rupture of hard cell wall and then act on the sporoplasm to kill the conidia. Nevertheless, the citronella oil provides a potential of being a safe and environmentally friendly fungicide in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Aspergillus niger / cytology
  • Aspergillus niger / drug effects*
  • Aspergillus niger / growth & development
  • Hyphae / drug effects
  • Hyphae / growth & development
  • Microbial Viability / drug effects
  • Microscopy
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Spores, Fungal / drug effects
  • Spores, Fungal / growth & development


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Plant Oils
  • citronella oil