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Title: The current state of mycotoxin biomarker development in humans and animals and the potential for application to plant systems

item Baldwin, Thomas
item Riley, Ronald
item Zitomer, Nicholas
item Voss, Kenneth
item COULOMBE, JR., ROGER - Utah State University
item PESTKA, JAMES - Michigan State University
item WILLIAMS, DAVID - Oregon State University
item Glenn, Anthony - Tony

Submitted to: World Mycotoxin Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/28/2011
Publication Date: 8/1/2011
Citation: Baldwin, T.T., Riley, R.T., Zitomer, N.C., Voss, K.A., Coulombe, Jr., R.A., Pestka, J.J., Williams, D.E., Glenn, A.E. 2011. The current state of mycotoxin biomarker development in humans and animals and the potential for application to plant systems. World Mycotoxin Journal. 4(3):257-270.

Interpretive Summary: Mycotoxins are metabolites produced by fungi that often contaminate grains and other food crops, and these mycotoxins may have toxic effects on humans and animals, potentially resulting in disease development. Dose-response relationships between mycotoxin exposure and increased risk of disease in humans and farm animals are often monitored by detection tools known as “biomarkers”. We briefly summarize the status of mycotoxin biomarker development in human and animal research for commercially important mycotoxins. We also address the question of whether the accumulated knowledge of biomarkers is transferable to studies of mycotoxin effects on plants. To exemplify the effectiveness of this approach, we discuss the physiological and pathological effects of fumonisins on maize seedling disease and how biomarkers can be used to demonstrate dose-response relationships and provide tools for monitoring fumonisin contamination of plant tissues. Such application of plant-based biomarkers may be amenable to other plant systems affected by mycotoxins and could lead to a better understanding of underlying plant-fungal interactions.

Technical Abstract: Filamentous fungi that contaminate livestock feeds and human food supply often produce toxigenic secondary metabolites known as mycotoxins. Among the hundreds of known mycotoxins, aflatoxins, deoxynivalenol, fumonisins, ochratoxin A and zearalenone are considered the most commercially important. Intense research on these mycotoxins, especially aflatoxin, has resulted in the development of ‘biomarkers’ used to link exposure to disease risk. In the case of aflatoxin this effort has led to the discovery of both exposure and mechanism-based biomarkers, which have proven essential for understanding aflatoxin’s potential for causing disease in humans, including subtle effects on growth and immune response. Fumonisin biomarkers have also been used extensively in farm and laboratory animals to study the fumonisin-induced disruption of cellular and systemic physiology which leads to disease. This review summarizes the status of mycotoxin biomarker development in humans and animals for the commercially important mycotoxins. Since the fungi responsible for the production of these mycotoxins are often endophytes that infect and colonize living plant tissues, accumulation of mycotoxins in the plant tissue may at times be associated with development of plant disease symptoms. The presence of mycotoxins, even in the absence of disease symptoms, may still have subtle biological effects on the physiology of plants. This review examines the question of whether or not the knowledge gained from mechanistic studies and development of biomarkers in animal and human systems is transferable to the study of mycotoxin effects on plant systems. Thus far, fumonisin has proven amenable to development of mechanism-based biomarkers to study maize seedling disease caused by the fumonisin producer, Fusarium verticillioides. Expanding our knowledge of mechanisms of toxicity and the overt and subtle effects on animal, human, and plant systems through the identification and validation of biomarkers will further our ability to monitor and limit the damage and economic impact of mycotoxins.