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Mycotoxins: Biosecurity, Food Safety and Biofuels Byproducts (NC129, NC1025)


The objectives of this project include the following: <br/>Develop data for use in risk assessment of mycotoxins in human and animal health, establish integrated strategies to manage and to reduce mycotoxin contamination in cereal grains and distillers grains, and define the regulation of mycotoxin biosynthesis and the molecular relationships among mycotoxigenic fungi.

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Non-Technical Summary:<br/>
Mycotoxins are an important group of secondary metabolites produced by food contaminating fungi. These toxic and carcinogenic compounds result in large costs to society in the form of crop loss and impairment of human and animal health. They impact both agricultural production and food security (e.g. cost of discarding contaminated crops, mycotoxins are used in biological warfare). Mycotoxins contaminate many of our agricultural supplies (grains, tree nuts, peanuts, fruit, cottonseed). The most frequently encountered mycotoxins are produced by members of the genera Aspergillus, Fusarium and Penicillium. Several of these species produce more than one devastating mycotoxin. This project will focus on both basic studies (e.g. using the conserved fungal virulence factor LaeA, to identify signaling pathways important in fungal pathogenicity) and designing applied studies based on previous progress (e.g. identifying A. flavus receptors as potential targets to impede aflatoxin synthesis and fungal development).
This is hypothesis-driven research that will be answered through lab experiments. For example, we hypothesize that genes regulated by LaeA (a protein required for mycotoxin production) are involved in mycotoxin production. We will delete and overexpress candidate LaeA regulated genes to examine this hypothesis. Assessment of such mutant strains will be measured for mycotoxin production to refute or support the hypothesis. This work involves training students and presenting work in classes and meetings. The work will be evaluated by peers in publications.

Keller, Nancy
University of Wisconsin - Madison
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