Elimination of Aflatoxin via Aflatoxin-Degrading Enzyme Expression in Crops

Case ID:

This technology involves the expression of an aflatoxin-degrading enzyme in maize kernels. The enzyme was engineered to target the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and become expressed using an embryo-specific promoter in the transgenic maize. It can be used in combination with an RNAi suppression method, HIGS, to protect maize during pre-harvest conditions.

It is estimated that 25% of the world’s crops are contaminated with a mycotoxin, a toxin produced by fungal sources. Aflatoxins are one class of mycotoxins that have two particularly toxic strains that are often found in maize, peanuts, cotton, and tree nuts. When ingested through the consumption of these crops, aflatoxin has been shown to be a Group 1 carcinogen for Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer. HCC is the fourth most common cause of cancer death worldwide. Many countries restrict the levels of aflatoxins allowed in food, which results in millions of crops being disposed of each year.

Most prior methods to reduce the prevalence of aflatoxins in crops have been insufficient and still result in the loss of many crops. Because aflatoxin contaminates crops in both pre-harvest and post-harvest storage, it is essential to have a method that is capable of working under both conditions. This method introduces a bioengineered aflatoxin-degrading enzyme that has the capability to prevent contamination in both conditions when combined with an RNAi suppression method in post-harvest. This method provides the potential to significantly impact food security and safety globally in any crop susceptible to mycotoxins.


  • Reduce the prevalence of strains of aflatoxin in multiple crops including:
    • Maize, peanuts, cotton, and tree nuts
  • Can be used in combination with RNAi suppression method to protect crops pre-harvest


  • Can be used to protect crops both pre-harvest and in post-harvest storage of crops
  • Can prevent the loss of millions of contaminated crops
  • More effective than prior methods of mycotoxin elimination
Patent Information:
Contact For More Information:
Tod McCauley
Assistant Director of Licensing, CALS
The University of Arizona
Lead Inventor(s):
Monica Schmidt