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Strategies to detoxify the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol and improve food safety in the U.S.
Wilson, Nina Marie
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Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by fungi that are a threat to the health of humans and domestic animals. The most important mycotoxin in the U.S. is deoxynivalenol (DON), which causes symptoms such as vomiting, feed refusal, and weight loss in farm animals. The fungus Fusarium graminearum produces DON in staple crops such as wheat, barley, and corn. It is estimated that the economic losses associated with DON contamination alone exceed $650 million per year in the U.S. New strategies are needed to mitigate DON and improve food safety in the U.S. The overall goal of my research is to discover and employ microorganisms and enzymes to detoxify DON. The specific objectives are to: (1) discover and characterize microorganisms that detoxify DON, (2) use a cell free protein synthesis (CFPS) system to study enzymes that modify DON, (3) engineer yeast to detoxify DON with a metabolic engineering strategy, and (4) deliver a high school unit to teach high school students about mycotoxins in food. In Objective 1, two mixed cultures were identified from environmental samples that converted DON into the less toxic 3-keto-deoxynivalenol (3-keto-DON). In Objective 2, a CFPS system was used to express three known acetyltransferase genes to convert DON to 3-acetyl-DON (3-A-DON). In Objective 3, we identified a potential DON transporter from a library of randomly amplified fragments from the genomes of mixed cultures of microbes isolated from the environment. In Objective 4, we developed and delivered a unique high school unit to educate high school students about potential mycotoxins in food and feed products. The work presented here represents new and improved methods for mitigating mycotoxin contamination in the United States.
- Doctoral Dissertations