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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Mississippi State, Mississippi » Crop Science Research Laboratory » Corn Host Plant Resistance Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #219974

Title: The importance of aflatoxin to the ethanol fuel industry

item Williams, William

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/22/2007
Publication Date: 2/1/2008
Citation: Brown, A., Williams, W.P., Wilkinson, J.R. 2008. The importance of aflatoxin to the ethanol fuel industry [abstract]. Proceedings 2007 Annual Multi-Crop Aflatoxin/Fumonisin Elimination and Fungal Genomics Workshop. p. 121.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Aflatoxins are highly toxic, hepatocarcinogenic compounds produced by Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus during infection of corn (maize), peanuts, cotton seed, and tree nuts. Aflatoxin becomes problematic when contaminated corn is used as a feedstock for ethanol production. Although aflatoxin has not been reported in ethanol produced from contaminated products, the distiller’s grains produced during fermentation show a marked increase in aflatoxin levels, typically 3-4 times the initial value. Distiller’s grains are key components in many animal feeds and generate significant revenue for distilleries. Therefore, ethanol manufacturers should not use aflatoxin-contaminated corn to generate ethanol due to the 20 ppb FDA limitations of aflatoxin on animal feeds. Though, previously not enforced in DDG the FDA has informed the Mississippi State Chemical Lab that DDG testing is imminent, increasing the need for methods to decontaminate aflatoxin tainted corn. Although, several chemical methods have been shown to be effective in removing aflatoxin they are not approved by the FDA and are too expensive to be feasible on an industrial level. Thus, we have begun to characterize aflatoxin degradation by Aspergillus species. The observed degradation of exogenously introduced aflatoxin has been confirmed by TLC and LC-MS and is serving as the basis for identification of genes and enzymes involved in this unique phenomenon. Identification and characterization of the factors responsible for the degradation of aflatoxins will allow contaminated substrates to be used for ethanol production. This research has the potential to greatly increase ethanol’s economical feasibility as an alternative fuel and provide an additional market for a previously unused resource.