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Any of a group of secondary metabolites produced by the common molds Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus that cause a toxic response in vertebrates when introduced in low concentration by a natural route. The group constitutes a type of mycotoxin. The naturally occurring aflatoxins are identified in physicochemical assays as intensely blue (aflatoxins B1 and B2) or blue-green (aflatoxins G1 and G2) fluorescent compounds under long-wave ultraviolet light. The common structural feature of the four major aflatoxins is a dihydrodifurano or tetrahydrodifurano group fused to a substituted coumarin group (see illustration). The relative proportions of the four major aflatoxins synthesized by Aspergillus reflect the genetic constitution of the producing strain and the parameters associated with fungal growth. In addition, derivative aflatoxins are produced as metabolic or environmental products. See Toxin

Structures of major naturally occurring aflatoxinsenlarge picture
Structures of major naturally occurring aflatoxins

Aflatoxins are formed through a polyketide pathway involving a series of enzymatically catalyzed reactions. In laboratory cultures, aflatoxins are biosynthesized after active growth has ceased, as is typical for secondary metabolites. By using blocked mutants and metabolic inhibitors, many of the intermediates have been identified as brightly colored anthraquinones.

Aflatoxins are potent molecules with many biological effects. They are toxigenic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic in various animal species. Aflatoxin B1 is usually the most abundant naturally occurring member of the family, and most studies on the pharmacological activity of aflatoxin have been conducted with this congener. Aflatoxin B1 is the most potent hepatocarcinogenic agent known, although the liver by no means is the only organ susceptible to aflatoxin carcinogenesis. Aflatoxin is listed as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. See Plant pathology

Aflatoxins are a major agricultural problem. Contamination can occur in the field, during harvest, or in storage and processing. Corn, rice, cottonseed, and peanuts are the major crops regularly displaying high levels of aflatoxin contamination. Since A. flavus and A. parasiticus are nearly ubiquitous in the natural environment, numerous other grain, legume, nut, and spice crops, as well as coffee and cocoa, have been reported to contain aflatoxins. Given the potential of aflatoxins as human carcinogens and their known activity as toxins in animal feeds, many international regulatory agencies monitor aflatoxin levels in susceptible crops. Prevention is the main line of defense against aflatoxins entering the food chain. Moisture, temperature, and composition of the substrate are the chief factors affecting fungal growth and toxin production. In the field, insect damage is often involved. Detoxification is a last line of defense. Several commercially feasible methods of ammoniation have been developed for reducing levels of aflatoxin contamination in animal feeds. See Agronomy, Mycotoxin

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


The toxin produced by some strains of the fungus Aspergillus flavus, the most potent carcinogen yet discovered.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Exposure Assessment of Infants to Aflatoxin M1 through Consumption of Breast Milk and Infant Powdered Milk in Brazil.
Hernandez-Mendozaet al., "Assessment of probiotic strains ability to reduce the bioaccessibility of aflatoxin M1 in artificially contaminated milk using an in vitro digestive model," Food Control, vol.
Tothill, "Electrochemical immunochip sensor for aflatoxin M1 detection," Analytical Chemistry, vol.
Sample Actual value Measured value Recovery RSD (ng) (ng) rate (%) (%) AFM1 0.25 0.2503 100.1 0.20 0.50 0.4994 99.7 0.35 1.00 1.0167 101.7 0.87 CAP 0.10 0.0953 95.3 0.60 0.30 0.2933 97.7 1.18 0.50 0.4883 97.6 0.59 AFM1, aflatoxin M1; CAP, chloramphenicol; RSD, relative standard deviation.
Many countries have set maximum allowable levels of aflatoxin M1 in dairy products.
By yesterday, milk from four dairy farms and three sheep farms was found with higher than permissible levels of aflatoxin M1.
However, in present study emphasis was given on Aspergillus and their toxins due to the fact that it metabolizes and carry over into milk in form of aflatoxin M1. However, on the other hand, anaerobic environment, adequate substrate and sufficient amount of lactic acid bacteria are required for good quality silage.
Aflatoxin M1 is found in the milk of women and lactating animals if their diet is contaminated with aflatoxin B1; it is considered a particular risk to infants and young children as milk is often part of their diet.
Austin, TX, April 05, 2014 --( Bioo Scientific's AflaPure[TM] Alfatoxin Total and AflaPure[TM] Aflatoxin M1 Column Kits are the first commercial immunoaffinity columns for aflatoxin enrichment designed to reduce cost of lab consumables by allowing regeneration between uses.
ANIMAL food contaminated with carcinogenic aflatoxin M1 could still be circulating in the market, according to the head of the Veterinary Services.
Serum albumin adducts in the molecular epidemiology of aflatoxin carcinogenesis: correlation with aflatoxin B1 intake and urinary excretion of aflatoxin M1. Carcinogenesis 9:1323-1325 (1988).