Aflatoxicosis: Lessons from Toxicity and Responses to Aflatoxin B1 in Poultry

Melissa S. Monson, Roger A. Coulombe, Kent M. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


This review is a comprehensive introduction to the effects of poultry exposure to the toxic and carcinogenic mycotoxin aflatoxin B1 (AFB1). The relationship between AFB1 sensitivity and metabolism, major direct and indirect effects of AFB1, recent studies of gene expression and transcriptome responses to exposure, and mitigation strategies to reduce toxicity are discussed. Exposure to AFB1 primarily occurs by consumption of contaminated corn, grain or other feed components. Low levels of residual AFB1 in poultry feeds can cause reduction in growth, feed conversion, egg production, and compromised immune functions, resulting in significant economic costs to producers. Thus, AFB1 acts as a “force multiplier” synergizing the adverse effects of microbial pathogens and other agents, and factors detrimental to poultry health. Domestic turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are one of the most sensitive animals known to AFB1 due, in large part, to a combination of efficient hepatic bioactivation by cytochromes P450 1A5 and 3A37, and deficient hepatic glutathione-S-transferase (GST)-mediated detoxification. Because of their sensitivity, turkeys are a good model to investigate chemopreventive treatments and feed additives for their ability to reduce AFB1 toxicity. Transcriptome analysis (RNA-seq) of turkey poults (liver and spleen) has identified AFB1-induced gene expression changes in pathways of apoptosis, carcinogenesis, lipid regulation, antimicrobial activity, cytotoxicity and antigen presentation. Current research focuses on further identifying the molecular mechanisms underlying AFB1 toxicity with the goal of reducing aflatoxicosis and improving poultry health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)742-777
Number of pages36
JournalAgriculture (Switzerland)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Grants 2005-01326, 2007-35205-17880, 2009-35205-05302, and 2013-01043 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Animal Genome Program. Support from the Minnesota and Utah Agricultural Experiments Stations is also acknowledged.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Aflatoxin B1
  • Feed additives
  • Hepatotoxicity
  • Immunosuppression
  • RNA-seq
  • Transcriptome
  • Turkey


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