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Plant J. 2010 Feb 1;61(3):399-408. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2009.04063.x. Epub 2009 Nov 25.

Microtubules are an intracellular target of the plant terpene citral.

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  • 1Division of Aromatic Plants, Agricultural Research Organization, Newe Ya'ar, PO Box 1021, Ramat Yishai 30095, Israel.


Citral is a component of plant essential oils that possesses several biological activities. It has known medicinal traits, and is used as a food additive and in cosmetics. Citral has been suggested to have potential in weed management, but its precise mode of action at the cellular level is unknown. Here we investigated the immediate response of plant cells to citral at micromolar concentrations. It was found that microtubules of Arabidopsis seedlings were disrupted within minutes after exposure to citral in the gaseous phase, whereas actin filaments remained intact. The effect of citral on plant microtubules was both time- and dose-dependent, and recovery only occurred many hours after a short exposure of several minutes to citral. Citral was also able to disrupt animal microtubules, albeit less efficiently. In addition, polymerization of microtubules in vitro was inhibited in the presence of citral. Taken together, our results suggest that citral is a potent, volatile, anti-microtubule compound.

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