Phenotypic differentiation of two morphologically similar aflatoxin-producing fungi from West Africa

Pummi Singh, Hillary L. Mehl, Marc J. Orbach, Kenneth A. Callicott, Peter J. Cotty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Aflatoxins (AF) are hepatocarcinogenic metabolites produced by several Aspergillus species. Crop infection by these species results in aflatoxin contamination of cereals, nuts, and spices. Etiology of aflatoxin contamination is complicated by mixed infections of multiple species with similar morphology and aflatoxin profiles. The current study investigates variation in aflatoxin production between two morphologically similar species that co-exist in West Africa, A. aflatoxiformans and A. minisclerotigenes. Consistent distinctions in aflatoxin production during liquid fermentation were discovered between these species. The two species produced similar concentrations of AFB1 in defined media with either urea or ammonium as the sole nitrogen source. However, production of both AFB1 and AFG1 were inhibited (p < 0.001) for A. aflatoxiformans in a yeast extract medium with sucrose. Although production of AFG1 by both species was similar in urea, A. minisclerotigenes produced greater concentrations of AFG1 in ammonium (p = 0.039). Based on these differences, a reliable and convenient assay for differentiating the two species was designed. This assay will be useful for identifying specific etiologic agents of aflatoxin contamination episodes in West Africa and other regions where the two species are sympatric, especially when phylogenetic analyses based on multiple gene segments are not practical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number656
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 13 2020


  • Aflatoxins
  • Aspergillus
  • Aspergillus aflatoxiformans
  • Aspergillus minisclerotigenes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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