Antibacterial Effects and Mechanism of Mandarin ( Citrus reticulata L.) Essential Oil against Staphylococcus aureus

Molecules. 2020 Oct 26;25(21):4956. doi: 10.3390/molecules25214956.


Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) creates an array of challenges for the food industry and causes foodborne diseases in people, largely due to its strong antibiotic resistance. Mandarin (Citrus reticulata L.) essential oil (MEO) is recognized as a natural and safe preservative; however, the antibacterial effects and mechanism of MEO to combat S. aureus are not yet clearly understood. This study will examine the inhibitory effects of MEO against S. aureus and explore the antibacterial mechanism thereof from the perspective of membrane destruction. The antibacterial activity of MEO on planktonic S. aureus was examined to determine the minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC). Scanning electron microscope (SEM) images revealed the direct impacts of MEO treatment on the cell structure of S. aureus. The cell membrane was observed to be depolarized, the determination of extracellular nucleic acids, proteins and intracellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) confirmed the increased permeability of the cell membrane, its integrity was destroyed and the cellular constituents had leaked. These results, thus, provided conclusive evidence that MEO constrains the growth of planktonic S. aureus by affecting the permeability and integrity of its cell membrane. Our study provides a basis for the further development and utilization of MEO as a natural antibacterial agent in the food industry.

Keywords: Staphylococcus aureus; cell membrane; citrus essential oil; food safety.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Citrus / chemistry*
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / cytology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Oils, Volatile