Enzymatic degradation is an effective means to reduce aflatoxin contamination in maize

Monica A. Schmidt, Yizhou Mao, Joseph Opoku, Hillary L. Mehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Aflatoxins are carcinogenic compounds produced by certain species of Aspergillus fungi. The consumption of crops contaminated with this toxin cause serious detrimental health effects, including death, in both livestock and humans. As a consequence, both the detection and quantification of this toxin in food/feed items is tightly regulated with crops exceeding the allowed limits eliminated from food chains. Globally, this toxin causes massive agricultural and economic losses each year. Results: In this paper we investigate the feasibility of using an aflatoxin-degrading enzyme strategy to reduce/eliminate aflatoxin loads in developing maize kernels. We used an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) targeted sub-cellular compartmentalization stabilizing strategy to accumulate an aflatoxin-degrading enzyme isolated from the edible Honey mushroom Armillariella tabescens and expressed it in embryo tissue in developing maize kernels. Three transgenic maize lines that were determined to be expressing the aflatoxin-degrading enzyme both at the RNA and protein level, were challenged with the aflatoxin-producing strain Aspergillus flavus AF13 and shown to accumulate non-detectable levels of aflatoxin at 14-days post-infection and significantly reduced levels of aflatoxin at 30-days post-infection compared to nontransgenic control Aspergillus-challenged samples. Conclusions: The expression of an aflatoxin-degrading enzyme in developing maize kernels was shown to be an effective means to control aflatoxin in maize in pre-harvest conditions. This aflatoxin-degradation strategy could play a significant role in the enhancement of both US and global food security and sustainability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number70
JournalBMC Biotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Aflatoxin
  • Degradation
  • Enzyme
  • Food security
  • Maize

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology


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