Define the regulation of mycotoxin biosynthesis and the molecular relationships among mycotoxigenic fungi <P>Outputs: Refereed journal publications; many will be co-authored by the members from multiple states. <P>Development and validation of new management tools for diagnosis and prevention of mycotoxin contamination.<P> Transfer of valuable research information to clientele groups (industry, government, grain producers and food producers) through general publications, website, and extension programs.
Non-Technical Summary: Preventing mycotoxin contamination of food and feed, and reducing the deleterious effects of mycotoxins on livestock, are important issues facing grain and livestock producers. Mycotoxins in grains processed for biofuels become concentrated in the solid byproduct known as distillers grain (DG), an important source of supplemental income for biofuel producers, and mycotoxin contamination is a major concern. For grain buyers and food processors, the primary need is a reliable method for rapid assessment of grain quality pertaining to mycotoxins and mycotoxigenic fungi. The worst-case scenario for these stakeholders is to own millions of bushels of corn contaminated with unacceptable levels of aflatoxins and fumonisins, or of wheat with excessive concentrations of deoxynivalenol (DON). Additionally, these stakeholders need cost-effective methods to predict, monitor, and minimize mycotoxin production in the field, and to detoxify mycotoxins and prevent further deterioration in contaminated grain. The lowering of tolerance limits for mycotoxins in overseas markets has increased the burden for grain buyers and food processors; currently, levels of mycotoxins that are acceptable for some US products are unacceptable in European and Asian markets, resulting in non-tariff trade barriers. Finally, workers who are responsible for animal and human health need information about the toxicity, carcinogenicity, modes of action, and biomarkers of exposure and disease for all categories of mycotoxins. To address these needs, the objectives of this project are to 1) Develop data for use in risk assessment of mycotoxins in human and animal health, 2) Establish integrated strategies to manage and to reduce mycotoxin contamination in cereal grains and distillers grains, and 3) Define the regulation of mycotoxin biosynthesis and the molecular relationships among mycotoxigenic fungi. Methods to be used include evaluating structure activity relationships (SAR) and investigating cell, tissue and whole animal responses at the biochemical, physiological and structural levels, creating molecular techniques to develop methods to monitor mycotoxigenic fungi and test new and old technologies designed to destroy mycotoxins monitor and predict their production in the field, and functional genomics. The outcomes derived from the work outlined in this proposal will contribute towards the overall goals of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Results will have a major impact on government decision-making by providing a better understanding of how various environmental and food processing components affect mycotoxin biosynthesis, advance detection technologies that can be used by public agencies, and by private diagnostic labs to provide mycotoxin analysis services to food industries, and create new basic knowledge that can be incorporated into new management strategies to help grain growers minimize mycotoxin contamination. <P> Approach: Objective 1. Define the regulation of mycotoxin biosynthesis and the molecular relationships between mycotoxigenic fungi Grains are a major source of food and energy for the world s population. Mycotoxigenic fungi are present in essentially every agricultural field, and mycotoxin contamination represents one of the greatest continuing threats to food safety and profitability. Mycotoxin contamination of grains that enter the food, feed, and ethanol industries is estimated to cause over $100 million in losses annually. The goal of this proposal is to better understand the molecular and genetic systems that link fungal development, pathogenicity and mycotoxin production. Members of our committee have formed collaborative teams based on specific mycotoxins and fungal species.