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Willow volatiles influence growth, development, and secondary metabolism in Aspergillus parasiticus


Aflatoxin is a mycotoxin and the most potent naturally occurring carcinogen in many animals. Aflatoxin contamination of food and feed crops causes a significant global burden on human and animal health. However, available methods to eliminate aflatoxin from food and feed are not fully effective. Our goal is to discover novel, efficient, and practical methods to control aflatoxin contamination in crops during storage. In the present study, we tested the effect of volatiles produced by willow (Salix acutifolia and Salix babylonica) and maple (Acer saccharinum) bark on fungal growth, development, and aflatoxin production by the fungus Aspergillus parasiticus, one economically important aflatoxin producer. S. acutifolia bark volatiles nearly eliminated aflatoxin accumulation (>90% reduction) by A. parasiticus grown on a minimal agar medium. The decrease in aflatoxin accumulation correlated with a twofold reduction in ver-1 (encodes a middle aflatoxin pathway enzyme) transcript level. Expression data also indicate that one histone H4 acetyltransferase, MYST3, may play a role in epigenetic control of aflatoxin gene transcription in response to volatile exposure. Volatiles derived from wood bark samples also increased fungal growth up to 20% and/or enhanced conidiospore development. Solid-phase microextraction–gas chromatographic–mass spectrometric analysis of bark samples identified sets of shared and unique volatile compounds that may mediate the observed regulatory effects on growth, development, and aflatoxin synthesis. This work provides an experimental basis for the use of willow industry by-products to control aflatoxin contamination in food and feed crops.

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This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant CA52003-18 (to J.E.L. and L.V.R.), the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, and the President of Russian Federation Scholarship (to A.V.K.).

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Correspondence to Ludmila V. Roze.

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Roze, L.V., Koptina, A.V., Laivenieks, M. et al. Willow volatiles influence growth, development, and secondary metabolism in Aspergillus parasiticus . Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 92, 359–370 (2011).

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  • Aspergillus parasiticus
  • Aflatoxin
  • Willow volatiles
  • Salix acutifolia
  • Aflatoxin genes
  • Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry