Benzyl isothiocyanate: maximising production in papaya tissue extracts

D.J. Williams, S. Pun, N. Alotaibi, T.J. O'Hare, Y. Sultanbawa
Although mainly grown for its sweet flavoured fruit, papaya (Carica papaya) has also been used for pharmacological purposes for many years. The reasons for use are varied with one of the best known being its anti-fungal action. Benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC) is the constituent most often implicated in this activity. Isothiocyanates are formed when the enzyme myrosinase catalyses the hydrolysis of the non-bioactive glucosinolates. This occurs when cellular contents come into contact through chewing, cutting or during extraction processes in the laboratory. While this is common in Brassica vegetables, the glucosinolate-myrosinase system is rare in fruit, papaya being a notable exception. It contains benzyl glucosinolate (BG), the glucosinolate precursor of BITC, in significant quantities. Parameters that determine the amount of BITC formed are duration of hydrolysis, presence/absence of nitrile-specifier proteins and BG content of different cultivars and tissues. We experimented with differing BITC extraction solvents, with the intention of developing a low cost, natural anti-fungal extract based on under-utilised papaya tissues. The findings suggest that papaya seeds, particularly from quarter-ripe fruit, have the potential to produce the highest levels of BITC necessary. Furthermore, they compare well with the nitrile-specifier protein-containing garden cress seeds (Lepidium sativum). To utilise the papaya seeds as a BITC source, an organic solvent such as ethanol is required to extract the largely water-insoluble BITC from the hydrolysed papaya seed mixture.
Williams, D.J., Pun, S., Alotaibi, N., O'Hare, T.J. and Sultanbawa, Y. (2015). Benzyl isothiocyanate: maximising production in papaya tissue extracts. Acta Hortic. 1106, 101-108
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2015.1106.16
Carica papaya, antifungal effects, benzyl glucosinolate, myrosinase activity, nitrile-specifier proteins

Acta Horticulturae