Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Brown-Johnson, Ashli

Committee Member

Peterson, Daniel G.

Committee Member

Sparks, Darrell L., Jr.

Committee Member

Williams, Paul

Committee Member

Shan, Xueyan

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology


Aflatoxins are a secondary metabolite produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus. A. flavus has been known to infect several crops including tree nuts, peanuts, rice, cotton and maize. Aflatoxins have been found to cause tumors with aflatoxin B1 being the most carcinogenic biologically produced substance known to man. Therefore, the FDA has restricted the amount of aflatoxin in maize for human consumption to 20 ppb (ng/g). An estimated $225 million are lost each year in the United States due to aflatoxin contamination in maize crops alone. Agriculture is a vital part of Mississippi’s economy, and maize is one of its largest crops. The purpose of this research is to track the correlations between aflatoxin accumulation and Aspergillus flavus fungal biomass for the first several weeks after inoculation, as well as the spreading of the fungus and the aflatoxin throughout the inoculated ear of maize. This will allow for better understanding of the pathogen-host interactions and how the fungus progresses over time. GA209 x T173 is the aflatoxin accumulation susceptible maize hybrid, GA209 x Mp313E is the susceptible and resistant hybrid, and Mp717 x Mp313E is the resistant maize hybrid to aflatoxin accumulation. These maize hybrids were each inoculated with toxin producing Aspergillus flavus NRRL 3357 and water as a control 21 days after silk maturation. Collections of the inoculated maize cobs were made 3, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, and 60 days after inoculation. Maize samples were collected and analyzed for aflatoxin and DNA concentration. The extracted aflatoxin was analyzed using an LC/MS. The fungal biomass was determined by performing quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). GA209xT173 and Mp717xMp313E showed no aflatoxin production two days after inoculation. The resistant maize hybrid lead in aflatoxin accumulation the last two years but had the least amount of fungal biomass for second and third years of the experiment The production of aflatoxin seems to begin decelerating after 21 days after inoculation. Resistance characteristics are more to prevent fungal infection. Fungal biomass was significantly higher in the susceptible hybrid GA209xT173 compared to the other hybrids. However, fungal spread was significantly higher in Mp313ExT173 and Mp717xMp313E.



Aspergillus flavus||maize||aflatoxin