Within the last decade, significant advances have been made in mycotoxin research with respect to their identification, biochemistry, and genetics of their biosynthesis and regulation of toxin formation as well as mycotoxicosis and prevention and control. This is especially true for those mycotoxins such as aflatoxins, ST, fumonisins, and trichothecenes that are economically important in agriculture and pose greatest health hazard for human beings and livestock. The biosynthetic pathways, the clustering of these genes on the chromosome, the function of these genes and enzymes involved in the formation of these toxins have been elucidated in great details. Scientists have also acquired significant knowledge on the gene expression and regulation of toxin synthesis within the corresponding gene cluster. A better understanding of the nutritional and environmental factors that affect the production of these mycotoxins has been examined in greater details.
There remains, however, a vast gap in our understanding of the coordinated global regulation on toxin formation, the potential existence of signal transduction pathways underlying primary and secondary metabolisms, the effects of environmental factors, biotic and abiotic, on the toxin formation, the mode and regulation of plant-microbe (crop and fungi) interaction during infection. With the development and application of Expressed Sequence-Tag (EST) and microarray technologies, we will be able to study the whole organism on the molecular genetic level to address those unanswered questions. Only when we have a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of mycotoxin formation, will we be able to develop effective strategies to control mycotoxin contamination of food and feed on a consistent basis, resulting in a sustainable, nutritious, and healthy food supply for the entire increasing world population.
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