Genetic Analysis of the Aspergillus flavus Vegetative Compatibility Group to Which a Biological Control Agent That Limits Aflatoxin Contamination in U.S. Crops Belongs.

Applied and environmental microbiology

PubMedID: 26092465

Grubisha LC, Cotty PJ. Genetic Analysis of the Aspergillus flavus Vegetative Compatibility Group to Which a Biological Control Agent That Limits Aflatoxin Contamination in U.S. Crops Belongs. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2015;.
Some filamentous fungi in Aspergillus section Flavi produce carcinogenic secondary compounds called aflatoxins. Aflatoxin contamination is routinely managed in commercial agriculture with strains of Aspergillus flavus that do not produce aflatoxins. These non-aflatoxin-producing strains competitively exclude aflatoxin producers and reshape fungal communities so that strains with the aflatoxin-producing phenotype are less frequent. This study evaluated the genetic variation within naturally occurring atoxigenic A. flavus strains from the endemic vegetative compatibility group (VCG) YV36. AF36 is a strain of VCG YV36 and was the first fungus used in agriculture for aflatoxin management. Genetic analyses based on mating-type loci, 21 microsatellite loci, and a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the aflC gene were applied to a set of 237 YV36 isolates collected from 1990 through 2005 from desert legumes and untreated fields and from fields previously treated with AF36 across the southern United States. One haplotype dominated across time and space. No recombination with strains belonging to VCGs other than YV36 was detected. All YV36 isolates carried the SNP in aflC that prevents aflatoxin biosynthesis and the mat1-2 idiomorph at the mating-type locus. These results suggest that VCG YV36 has a clonal population structure maintained across both time and space. These results demonstrate the genetic stability of atoxigenic strains belonging to a broadly distributed endemic VCG in both untreated populations and populations where the short-term frequency of VCG YV36 has increased due to applications of a strain used to competitively exclude aflatoxin producers. This work supports the hypothesis that strains of this VCG are not involved in routine genetic exchange with aflatoxin-producing strains.