Molecular characterization of aflatoxigenic and non-aflatoxigenic aspergillus isolates
Mngadi, Phakamile Truth
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For decades the genus Aspergillus (of fungi) has been classified based on morphological and growth criteria. Members of the Aspergillus section Flavi are economically valuable and methods of differentiating them are thus very important. Several molecular methods have been developed to distinguish these strains. Also, a number of biochemical and genetic studies have been used in order to provide a better means of classification (Lee et al., 2004). Aflatoxins, the most frequently studied mycotoxins, are produced by certain Aspergillus species/strains/isolates of fungi. The aflatoxin biosynthetic pathway studies have led to a number of discoveries. Several structural and regulatory genes (and their enzymes) involved in the biosynthesis of aflatoxins have been discovered and purified (Trail et al., 1995). Aflatoxin production and contamination of agricultural crops are major causes of economic losses in agriculture. Thus, better methods of characterization/differentiation are required for both aflatoxigenic and non-aflatoxigenic isolates. Molecular biology is one of the current tools used to differentiate between these isolates. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)-based randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis has been used successfully in the analysis of DNA relatedness of species of fungi, bacteria, plants and animals. Dendograms which evaluate/assess the likeness between different isolates has also been used (Martinez et al., 2001). Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis has been applied to a number of studies to detect differences between fungi and to establish relationships between them. Therefore, the scope of this study was to investigate RAPD analysis (with dendograms) and detection of RFLPs by hybridization as molecular methods that can distinctly differentiate or characterize the aflatoxigenic and non-aflatoxigenic Aspergillus isolates.