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Chapter 18 : Genomics of Aspergillus flavus Mycotoxin Production
Category: Applied and Industrial Microbiology; Food Microbiology
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Food microbiologists often overlook the importance of fungi as a threat to food safety and security even though fungi produce a wide array of toxic compounds. Aspergillus flavus is known to produce over 14 described mycotoxins. It is common for strains of A. flavus to produce both aflatoxin and cyclopiazonic acid (CPA) and for commodities to contain both mycotoxins. Other than A. flavus and A. minisclerotigenes, no other fungal genera are known to produce aflatrem; however, structurally related tremorgenic mycotoxins, such as penitrem from Penicillium spp., are prevalent in other fungi and likely share common enzymes. Fungi have the capacity to produce many diverse secondary metabolites, and over 300 fungal secondary metabolites are described as mycotoxins. It is now possible to predict whether potential toxins produced by secondary metabolism clusters may be present in food. With respect to the regulation of aflatrem biosynthesis, researchers have shown that the gene called veA, previously shown to control aflatoxin and sclerotial production in A. parasiticus was found to not only be necessary for the production of aflatoxins B1 and B2 and sclerotia, but also regulated the synthesis of the mycotoxins cyclopiazonic acid and aflatrem. New tools for genomewide gene profiling and functional analysis will surely reveal additional information on aflatoxin production and the regulation of the process. This knowledge will empower researchers to find effective strategies for controlling aflatoxin contamination of food and feed. Gradually, newly developed next-generation sequencing technologies will become common research tools for functional genomics studies.