Effect of Selected Browning Inhibitors on Phenolic Metabolism in Stem Tissue of Harvested Lettuce
Wound-induced changes in phenolic metabolism causes stem browning (butt discoloration) in harvested lettuce. Stem tissue near the harvesting cut exhibited increased phenylalanine ammonialyase (PAL) activity and accumulation of caffeic acid derivatives. These o-diphenols can be oxidized by the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) to produce brown pigments. This browning reaction can readily be followed by measuring a* values. Browning was reduced by washing stem disks with solutions of 0.3 M calcium chloride, 1.0 mM 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), or 0.5 M acetic acid. These browning inhibitors appear to act in different ways. Calcium chloride decreased PAL activity to 60% of the control, but did not substantially affect the accumulation of phenolic compounds. The mechanism of calcium action could be to decrease PPO activity or to preserve membrane structure. PAL activity was inhibited 60% by 2,4-D, and the biosynthesis of phenolic compounds was strongly inhibited but not suppressed. Acetic acid completely inhibited PAL activity and the production of wound-induced phenolics. PAL was irreversibly inhibited by acetic acid, and this may explain its role as a browning inhibitor.