Aflatoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by Aspergillus flavus and a few other closely related species of Aspergillus. These highly toxigenic and carcinogenic mycotoxins contaminate global food and feed supplies, posing widespread health risks to humans and domestic animals. Field application of nonaflatoxigenic strains of A. flavus to compete against aflatoxigenic strains has emerged as one of the best management practices for reducing aflatoxins contamination, yielding successful commercial products for corn, cotton seed, and peanuts. In this study, we sequenced the genome and transcriptome of atoxigenic (does not produce aflatoxin or cyclopiazonic acid) A. flavus strain WRRL 1519 isolated from a tree nut orchard to define the genetic characteristics of the strain in relation to aflatoxigenic and other nonaflatoxigenic A. flavus strains. WRRL 1519 strain was similar to other strains in size (38.0 Mb), GC content (47.2%), number of predicted secondary metabolite gene clusters (46), and number of putative proteins (12 121). About 87.4% of the predicted proteome had high shared identity with protein sequences derived from other A. flavus genomes. However, the atoxigenic A. flavus strain WRRL 1519 had deletions, or low shared identity, for many genes in the clusters required for aflatoxins and cyclopiazonic acid (CPA) synthesis. Over half of the aflatoxin synthesis gene cluster was missing, and none of the components of the CPA gene cluster were identified with high sequence similarity. Importantly, the strain appeared to maintain functional sequences of several genes thought to be required for high infectivity. Since the ability to grow on target crop is an important attribute for a successful biocontrol agent, these results indicate that the nonaflatoxigenic A. flavus strain WRRL 1519 would be a good candidate as a biocontrol agent for reducing aflatoxin and CPA accumulation in high-value nut crops.
Keywords: Aflatoxins; bioinformatics; cyclopiazonic acid; secondary metabolites.