Wine contamination with ochratoxin A (OTA) is due to the attack of wine grapes by ochratoxigenic Aspergillus carbonarius and Aspergillus spp. section Nigri. Four A. pullulans strains, AU14-3-1, AU18-3B, AU34- 2, and LS30, are resistant to and actively degrade ochratoxin A in vitro. The less toxic ochratoxin α and the amino acid L-β-phenylalanine were the major degradation products, deriving from the cleavage of the amide bond linking these two moieties of OTA. The same strains were studied further as biocontrol agents of A. carbonarius on wine grapes in laboratory experiments. Three of the four strains significantly prevented infec- tions by A. carbonarius. Berries pretreated with the biocontrol agents and infected with A. carbonarius contained lower amounts of OTA as compared to the untreated infected control berries. Two of these strains were shown to degrade OTA to ochratoxin α in fresh grape must, but the mechanisms of the decrease of OTA accumulation in infected berries pretreated with the biocontrol agents remain to be elucidated. Assessment of one strain carried out in the vineyard during the growing season of 2006 showed that the tested strain was an effective biocontrol agent, reducing both severity of Aspergillus rots and OTA accumulation in wine grapes. To our knowledge this is the first report describing the positive influence of biocontrol agents on OTA accumulation in this crop species.
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