Comparative Analysis of Multiple GWAS Results Identifies Metabolic Pathways Associated with Resistance to A. flavus Infection and Aflatoxin Accumulation in Maize

Toxins (Basel). 2022 Oct 28;14(11):738. doi: 10.3390/toxins14110738.


Aflatoxins are carcinogenic secondary metabolites produced by several species of Aspergillus, including Aspergillus flavus, an important ear rot pathogen in maize. Most commercial corn hybrids are susceptible to infection by A. flavus, and aflatoxin contaminated grain causes economic damage to farmers. The creation of inbred lines resistant to Aspergillus fungal infection or the accumulation of aflatoxins would be aided by knowing the pertinent alleles and metabolites associated with resistance in corn lines. Multiple Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) and association mapping studies have uncovered several dozen potential genes, but each with a small effect on resistance. Metabolic pathway analysis, using the Pathway Association Study Tool (PAST), was performed on aflatoxin accumulation resistance using data from four Genome-wide Association Studies (GWAS). The present research compares the outputs of these pathway analyses and seeks common metabolic mechanisms underlying each. Genes, pathways, metabolites, and mechanisms highlighted here can contribute to improving phenotypic selection of resistant lines via measurement of more specific and highly heritable resistance-related traits and genetic gain via marker assisted or genomic selection with multiple SNPs linked to resistance-related pathways.

Keywords: Aspergillus flavus; GWAS; aflatoxin; maize (Zea mays); metabolic pathway analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aflatoxins* / metabolism
  • Aspergillus flavus / genetics
  • Aspergillus flavus / metabolism
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Zea mays / microbiology


  • Aflatoxins

Grants and funding

This research was funded by the USDA ARS Innovation Fund.