Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2021 Apr 20. doi: 10.1007/s00253-021-11293-z. Online ahead of print.
Hexanal, a natural volatile organic compound, exerts antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus; however, the mechanisms underlying these effects are unclear. In this study, we found that the growth of A. flavus mycelium was completely inhibited following exposure to 0.4 μL/mL hexanal (minimal inhibitory concentration). A detailed metabolomics survey was performed to identify changes in metabolite production by A. flavus cells after exposure to 1/2 the minimal inhibitory concentration of hexanal for 6 h, which revealed significant differences in 70 metabolites, including 20 upregulated and 50 downregulated metabolites. Among them, levels of L-malic acid, α-linolenic acid, phosphatidylcholine, D-ribose, riboflavin, D-mannitol, D-sorbitol, and deoxyinosine were significantly reduced. The metabolomics results suggest that the metabolites are mainly involved in the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA), ABC transport system, and membrane synthesis in A. flavus cells. Hexanal treatment reduced succinate dehydrogenase and mitochondrial dehydrogenase activity and stimulated superoxide anion and hydrogen peroxide accumulation in A. flavus mycelia. Increases in the electric conductivity and A260nm of the culture supernatant indicated cell membrane leakage. Therefore, hexanal appears to disrupt cell membrane synthesis, induce mitochondrial dysfunction, and increase oxidative stress in A. flavus mycelia. KEY POINTS: • Metabolite changes of A. flavus mycelia were identified after hexanal treatment. • Most differential metabolites were downregulated in hexanal-treated A. flavus. • An antifungal model of hexanal against A. flavus was proposed.