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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Strategies for Eliminating Preharvest Aflatoxin Contamination of Cottonseed and Corn

Authors
item Brown, Robert
item Cleveland, Thomas

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: November 23, 2003
Publication Date: November 25, 2003
Citation: Brown, R.L., Cleveland, T.E. 2003. Strategies for eliminating preharvest aflatoxin contamination of cottonseed and corn. Proceedings of the International Workshop on Mycotoxins, November 23-25, 2003, St. Louis, Missouri. p. 20.

Technical Abstract: Aflatoxins are carcinogens produced by Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus when these fungi infect crops before and after harvest. Contamination of food and feeds with aflatoxins, therefore, threatens both human and animal health. Traditional control methods (e.g. cultural practices, pesticides) have not been effective in controlling aflatoxin-producing fungi. Our research, therefore, focuses on acquiring knowledge of 1) the interruption of aflatoxin biosynthesis, 2) fungal populations and biocontrol using atoxigenic A. flavus strains, and 3) enhancement of host plant resistance to aflatoxin contamination through a) gene insertion, and b) identification of resistance markers for marker-assisted breeding. Strategies for interrupting aflatoxin biosynthesis could be significantly benefitted by previous studies conducted in our lab that identified the cluster of pathway genes, corresponding biosynthetic enzymes, and precursor intermediates involved in aflatoxin B1 and B2 synthesis. Our current study of A. flavus genomics provides an innovative strategy and rapid investigative tool for simultaneous analysis of the biochemical function and genetic regulation of fungal genes to understand the molecular regulation of aflatoxin biosynthesis. Microorganisms have often been suggested as agents for control of aflatoxin contamination. The best biocompetitive agent to control A. flavus would be atoxigenic strains of A. flavus, because these strains are expected to be adaptable to environmental conditions identical to the toxigenic strains and would be biologically active. Research that demonstrated success in the competitive exclusion of toxigenic strains by atoxigenic strains and subsequent drastic reductions of aflatoxin levels in cottonseed has led to an industry-ARS partnership in support of extensive field trials in Arizona and the large-scale development of atoxigenic strains. Plant breeding for resistance is practicable for corn due to the existence of a large germplasm pool with differential resistance. However, genetic engineering may be essential for cotton since it contains little resistance to aflatoxin contamination in its seed. Genes encoding antifungal proteins have been identified and cotton is being transformed with these genes and tested for enhanced resistance to aflatoxigenic fungi. A rapid and simple kernel screening assay (KSA) was developed that enhances resistance-screening for corn breeders and facilitates the study of kernel resistance mechanisms. The strategy of comparing kernel proteomes of resistant with susceptible genotypes has facilitated the discovery of antifungal and stress-related proteins associated with resistance. This strategy is enhanced by the discovery of near-isogenic corn lines differing in resistance among lines produced in a West African breeding program. Confirmation of a role for resistance-associated proteins/corresponding genes in resistance would yield markers useful to breeders to develop agronomically superior resistant corn lines.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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