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Advances in the Development of Host Resistance in Corn to Aflatoxin Contamination by Aspergillus flavus

February 1999 , Volume 89 , Number  2
Pages  113 - 117

R. L. Brown , Z.-Y. Chen , T. E. Cleveland , and J. S. Russin

First and third authors: Southern Regional Research Center, USDA-ARS, New Orleans, LA 70179; second and fourth authors: Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70803

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Accepted for publication 26 October 1998.

Aflatoxins are toxic, highly carcinogenic secondary metabolites of Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus, which when produced during fungal infection of a susceptible crop in the field or after harvest contaminate food and feed and threaten human and animal health. Although there are several management strategies that may reduce aflatoxin contamination of corn, the preeminent strategy for elimination of aflatoxin is to develop preharvest host resistance to aflatoxin accumulation. This strategy has gained even greater prominence due to recent discoveries of natural resistance in corn that can be exploited in plant-breeding strategies. The ability to identify resistant corn genotypes has been enhanced by the development of a laboratory kernel-screening assay and by a strain of A. flavus genetically engineered to produce β-glucuronidase, an enzyme whose activity can be monitored to assess the degree of fungal infection in kernels. Investigations of resistant corn genotypes have associated kernel pericarp wax characteristics with resistance, identified kernel proteins associated with resistance to and inhibition of fungal growth or aflatoxin biosynthesis, and identified chromosome regions associated with resistance to Aspergillus ear rot and aflatoxin production. Such research advances could lead, in the near future, to commercially available, agronomically acceptable corn lines with multiple preharvest resistances to aflatoxin contamination.

Additional keywords: crop resistance, mycotoxins, preharvest aflatoxin elimination.

The American Phytopathological Society, 1999