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Vol.134, 2020

The interplay between antimicrobial activity and reactivity of isothiocyanates

Silvia Andinia,b, Carla Araya-Cloutiera, Leonie Waardenburga, Heidy M.W.den Bestenc, Jean-Paul Vinckena

Laboratory of Food Chemistry, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 17, 6700 AA, Wageningen, the Netherlands


This study aimed to determine antimicrobial activity (minimum inhibitory concentration, MIC; minimum bactericidal/fungicidal concentration, MBC/MFC) of novel ITCs against food spoilage and pathogenic Gram– bacteria, Gram+ bacteria, and fungi. The activity of the long-chain (C9) 9-(methylthio)nonyl ITC (9-MTITC), 9-(methylsulfinyl)nonyl ITC (9-MSITC), and 9-(methylsulfonyl)nonyl ITC (9-MSoITC) was determined for the first time. Due to the electrophilicity of ITCs, the activity of ITCs was evaluated in nucleophile-rich and nucleophile-poor growth media. ITCs reacted via conjugation with components in a nucleophile-rich growth medium at a rate of 39–141 µmol L-1 h-1, depending on their side chain configuration and temperature. The reaction rates were lowered by a factor of 2–21 when using nucleophile-poor growth media. Consequently, the activity of ITCs was generally improved, with MSITC and MSoITC being the most positively affected (activity increased by a factor of > 4). 9-MSITC and 9-MSoITC had good activity (MIC = 25 µg/mL) against Gram+ bacteria and fungi. The short-chained (C3) analogues had good activity against Gram+ bacteria and Gram– bacteria. The highest bactericidal/fungicidal activity was obtained for 9-MSITC and 9-MSoITC (MBC/MFC 17.5–25 µg/mL). Overall, MSITC and MSoITC might be potential new natural food preservatives, but their reactivity with food matrix components should be considered.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Antibacterial, Brassicaceae, Electrophilic, Food preservative, Glucosinolate

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