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Chlorogenic acid: a metabolic signature in maize grain?

Cereal crops can be contaminated by mycotoxins produced by toxigenic fungi. Some maize genotypes displaying resistance to the Fusarium genus contain high levels of chlorogenic acid. According to the INRA researchers in MycSA, this compound could serve as a biochemical marker in breeding programmes for disease resistance.

Chlorogenic acid: a metabolic signature in maize grains? © Laetitia Pinson-Gadais - WEBER Jean
Updated on 11/22/2013
Published on 11/22/2013

Fungal species responsible for mycotoxin contamination in cereal crops

Aspergillus, Penicillium or Fusarium are the major toxigenic fungal genera that infect cereal crops. Fusarium graminearum, the causative agent of Gibberella Ear Rot, is responsible for significant harvest losses in the cereal sector. Fusarium mycotoxins, and particularly type B trichothecenes, accumulate in developing maize grains and frequently pollute the finished products. Cereal producing countries are regularly affected by these contaminations which strike depending on climatic conditions, as well as agronomic practices and genotype susceptibility.

For the first time, the in planta-dynamics of trichothecene production have been described

The MycSA research team succeeded in describing the dynamics of Fusarium development and the production of trichothecenes in maize. These toxins start to accumulate at an early stage in the grain, twenty to thirty days after flowering. This early stage is also characterized by high concentrations of some plant secondary metabolites, such as chlorogenic, ferulic, caffeic and p-coumaric acids. These phenolic compounds are able to regulate the toxin biosynthetic pathway, thus reducing the accumulation of trichothecenes.

Chlorogenic acid, an inhibitor of mycotoxin production

In the most resistant varieties, the scientists observed chlorogenic acid levels that were much higher than those measured in Gibberella Ear Rot-susceptible varieties. The usefulness of this metabolite as a resistance marker for breeding is currently being validated. In addition, a metabolomic approach has been initiated with the aim of identifying other plant metabolites that are able to reduce trichothecene accumulation in kernels.

This research was performed in the context of a CIFRE doctoral thesis project, and involved the Euralis and Monsanto breeding companies.

For further information

  • Anatasova-Penichon V, Pons S., Pinson-Gadais L., Picot A., Marchegay G., Bonin Verdal MN, Ducos C., Barreau C., Roucolle J., Sehabiague P., Carolo P., Richard-Forget F., 2012. Chlorogenic acid and maize ear rot resistance: A dynamic study investigating Fusarium graminearum development, deoxynivalenol production and phenolic acid accumulation. Molecular Plant Microbe Interaction, 25(2): 1605-1616.
  • Adeline Picot, Vessela Atanosova-Penichon, Sébastien Pons, Gisèle Marchegay, Christian Barreau, Laëtitia Pinson-Gadais, Joël Roucolle, Florie Daveau, Daniel Caron and Florence Richard-Forget, Maize Kernel Antioxydants and their potential involvement in Fusarium Ear Rot Resistance, Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2013, 61, 3389-3395