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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Chemical Approaches to Eliminate Fungal Contamination and Mycotoxin Production in Plant Products

Location: Foodborne Toxin Detection and Prevention

Project Number: 5325-42000-037-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Feb 10, 2011
End Date: Feb 09, 2016

Objective:
The overarching goal of this project is to develop methods to improve the safety of our food with regard to contamination by microbial toxins, mainly mycotoxins. In this regard, the project has a series of interconnected objectives. These objectives and their interrelationships are described as follows: Objective 1: Develop detection methods for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) to pinpoint food contaminants. Develop methods for identifying specific, "signature," volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as telltale indicators of microbial, mycotoxin contamination or insect infestation. This VOC detection will be applied to Objective 2. Objective 2: Develop methods for real-time detection of pathogen or insect contamination and toxins. Telltale VOCs will be used as real-time "signals" for detecting the presence of pathogens, mycotoxin-producing fungi or insects in crops or crop products, in post harvest storage or processing environments. This detectability will permit optimization of any intervention measures that are needed; which will be developed in Objective 3. Objective 3: Develop intervention technologies using plant VOCs / natural products as tools for the control of pathogens and insects. Specifically target the genetic control mechanisms through the use of chemosensitization and formulation development. Objective 4: Investigate the biochemical and genetic regulation of toxin production within fungal communities, with special emphasis on communication. Investigate the factors controlling aflatoxin catabolism and identification of the catabolic products.

Approach:
Identify the natural constituents responsible for resistance of certain varieties of tree nuts to growth of aflatoxigenic strains of aspergillus. Isolate and identify novel metabolites in sclerotia of Aspergillus and develop analytical methods for such compounds in order to assess exposure levels of tree nut orchards to the fungus. Identify genes involved in triggering mycotoxin biosynthesis using high-through put bioassays. Assays involve use of deletion mutants, gene knockouts and complementation analysis. Discover natural compounds that disrupt functionality of gene targets identified. Develop biosensors for detecting toxic fungi in pre- and post harvest environments.

Last Modified: 8/30/2014
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