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Biotransformation of the mycotoxin zearalenone by fungi of the genera Rhizopusand Aspergillus.

Zearalenone (ZEN) is a nonsteroidal estrogenic mycotoxin biosynthesized by various Fusarium fungi. These fungal species frequently infest grains; therefore, ZEN represents a common contaminant in cereal products. The biotransformation of ZEN differs significantly from species to species, and several metabolites are known to be formed by animals, plants, and microorganisms. The aim of the present study was to investigate the microbial conversion of ZEN by species of the genera Rhizopus and Aspergillus representing relevant fungi for food processing (e.g. fermentation). To monitor the ZEN metabolism, ZEN was added to liquid cultures of the different fungal species. After a period of 3 days, the media were analyzed by HPLC-MS/MS for metabolite formation. Two Aspergillus oryzae strains and all seven Rhizopus species were able to convert ZEN into various metabolites, including ZEN-14-sulfate as well as ZEN-O-14- and ZEN-O-16-glucoside. Microbial transformation of ZEN into the significantly more estrogenic α-zearalenol (α-ZEL) was also observed. Additionally, a novel fungal metabolite, α-ZEL-sulfate, was detected. Semi-quantification of the main metabolites indicates that more than 50% of initial ZEN may be modified. The results show that fungal strains have the potential to convert ZEN into various metabolites leading to a masking of the toxin, for example in fermented food.

Brodehl, A.; Möller, A.; Kunte, H.J.; Koch, M.; Maul, R. 2014. Biotransformation of the mycotoxin zearalenone by fungi of the genera Rhizopus and Aspergillus. FEMS Microbiology Letters 359 (1), 124-130.