Dried, ground cayenne peppers have been spicing up cuisine for thousands of years. Now, Agricultural Research Service scientists and colleagues have found that a patented antifungal plant compound in cayenne, called CAY-1, holds promise for dual use as an antifungal in both agriculture and medicine.
The substance is believed to work by attaching to fungal membranes, where it causes cell components to leak, eventually killing the cell. CAY-1 may also enter fungal cells, and adversely affect certain signaling pathways that, in turn, damage the mitochondria--the powerhouses for several cellular processes--in cells.
Anthony De Lucca, a microbiologist with the Food and Feed Safety Research Unit at the ARS Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La., led a study in which he and colleagues isolated 10 fungi--either primary or secondary grape pathogens--from diseased grapes grown in a hot, humid environment. Primary pathogens directly cause infection, whereas secondary pathogens infect after the hosts' defenses have been compromised by stress, injury, or other infection.
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