Penicillium italicum causes blue mold disease and leads to huge economic losses in citrus production. As a natural antifungal agent, clove essential oil (CEO), which is a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) substance, shows strong in vitro activity against fungal pathogens. However, few studies on CEO for controlling postharvest blue mold disease caused by P. italicum in citrus fruit have been reported. Our aims were to investigate the control efficacy and possible mechanisms involved of CEO against P. italicum. In the present study, CEO treatment inhibited the disease development of blue mold when applied at 0.05% to 0.8% (v/v), and with the effective concentration being obtained as 0.4% (v/v). Besides its direct antifungal activity, CEO treatment also spurred a rapid accumulation of H2O2 compared with untreated fruits, which might contribute to enhancing an increase in the activities of defense-related enzymes, such as β-1,3-glucanase (β-Glu), chitinase (CHI), phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL), peroxidase (POD), polyphenol oxidase (PPO), and lipoxygenase (LOX) in citrus fruit. Results of real time-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) showed that the gene expressions of β-Glu, CHI, PAL, POD and PPO were up-regulated in CEO-treated fruits. At the same time, CEO treatment led to down-regulated expression of the LOX gene in citrus fruit. Clove essential oil effectively control the disease incidence of blue mold decay in citrus fruit by motivating the host-defense responses, suppressing the malondialdehyde (MDA) accumulation while enhancing the activities and gene expressions of defense-related enzymes. Our study provides an alternative preservative applying CEO to reduce postharvest fungal decay in citrus fruit.
Keywords: Penicillium italicum; blue mold; clove essential oil; induced disease resistance.