Stress induction of mycotoxin biosynthesis genes by abiotic factors


  • Editor: Jan Dijksterhuis

Correspondence: Rolf Geisen, Max Rubner Institute, Haid-und-Neu-Str. 9, Karlsruhe 76131, Germany. Tel.: +49 7216625450; fax: +49 7216625453; e-mail:


Systematic expression analysis of mycotoxin biosynthesis genes by real-time PCR and microarray was carried out to examine the relationship between growth and general expression patterns in relation to single environmental factors such as temperature, water activity (aw) and pH and water activity × temperature interactions. For single parameters, one major peak of expression occurred close to optimum growth conditions. However, a second minor peak was observed under suboptimal growth conditions, when intermediate environmental stress was imposed on Aspergillus parasiticus (afl genes), Penicillium verrucosum (ota genes) and Fusarium culmorum (tri genes). This expression profile pattern was more pronounced in relation to changes in temperature and aw than to pH. In a two-factorial experimental design with temperature ×aw regimes, again two peaks of expression were observed for cluster genes after microarray analysis, one close to those giving optimal growth and one under imposed stress conditions. Interestingly, when the activity of single genes of the microarray data were plotted in relation to the two parameters, again a two-peak expression profile became obvious independently for both parameters. Expression of the mycotoxin biosynthesis genes was followed exactly by phenotypic mycotoxin production. This expression profile appears to be generic across the mycotoxigenic fungi examined.