Food contaminated with pathogenic bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), represents a serious health risk to human beings. Totarol is an antibacterial novel phenolic diterpenes. In present study, the antibacterial activity of totarol against S. aureus was investigated in a food system. The antibacterial activity of totarol was determined by measuring the zones of inhibition and minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs). The MICs for S. aureus strains were in the range of 2-4 μg/ml. The probable antibacterial mechanism of totarol was the alteration in cell membranes integrity and permeability, which leading to the leakage of cellular materials. The electric conductivity showed a time- and dose-dependent increasing manner, and we utilized totarol to induce the production of cytoplasmic β-galactosidase in S. aureus. Scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy analysis further confirmed that S. aureus cell membranes were damaged by totarol. The time-kill assay and detection of the kinetics of S. aureus deactivation in situ indicated that totarol has good preservative activities in a food model. Totarol successfully inhibited S. aureus development in carrot juice, at room temperature (25 °C) and in refrigerator (4 °C) respectively. Our works provided not only additional evidences in support of totarol being regarded as a natural antibacterial food preservative but also fundamental understanding on the mode of antibacterial action. It is necessary to consider that totarol will become a promising antibacterial additive for food preservative.
Keywords: Antibacterial mechanism; Food preservative; Food system; Staphylococcus aureus; Totarol.