A team of scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre, in St. Louis, US and their collaborators at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Louisiana State University have come out with an important research breakthrough by suppressing the aflatoxin-producing fungus in groundnut.
The discovery has the potential to drastically improve food safety and reduce losses caused by the contamination from the poisonous carcinogen, aflatoxin.
Aflatoxins pose a major risk to human and animal health worldwide and result in an enormous amount of food waste.
The research team transferred small proteins called defensins from alfalfa and the Mediterranean clover to the DNA of an Aspergillus-susceptible peanut variety widely grown in Africa and India which allowed the groundnut to stop the fungus from infecting the plant.
ICRISAT scientists worked with collaborators at the USDA and Louisiana State University to transfer small RNA molecules from the Aspergillus fungus that are involved in the aflatoxin synthetic pathway.
The nuts produced these RNA molecules during fungal attacks and inactivated target genes responsible for aflatoxin synthesis. The technology is also translatable to maize and de-oiled cakes used for animal feed, pistachios and almonds.