Trichothecenes 31 Occurrence and Toxicology

The trichothecenes constitute a class of over 80 different members of sesquiterpenoid compounds produced by a number of genera of filamentous fungi. Based on the presence of a macrocyclic ester or ester-ether bridge between C-4 and C-15, trichothecenes are generally classified as macrocyclic (Type C) or non-macrocyclic (Types A and B). The trichothecenes, including diacetoxyscirpenol (DAS), deoxy-nivalenol (DON), and T-2 toxin, are mainly produced by Fusarium species (Bhatnagar et al. 2002; Brown et al. 2001; Chu 1997; Proctor 2000; Sharma and Kim 1991). The more structurally complex macrocyclic trichothecenes are produced by the fungal genera Myrothecium, Stachybotrys, and Trichothecium. Trichoderma, Cephalosporium, and

Verticimonosporium are also found to produce the trichothe-cenes. The most potent trichothecenes are contact toxins and cause severe blistering and necrosis of the target tissue. Their cytotoxicity parallels their acute toxicity in animals with T-2 toxin being more potent than nivalenol. Nivalenol is much more potent as an acute toxin than is DON. These trichothecenes are of great concern for food and feed contamination. DON is of considerable importance to agricultural economies because animals refuse to eat contaminated grain. F. sporotrichioides and F. graminearum are the best studied among the trichothecene producing fungi which are responsible for trichothecene contamination of grains such as maize, wheat, barley, and rye (Brown et al. 2001; Chu 1997; Proctor 2000).

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