Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Roger A. Coulombe, Jr.


Roger A. Coulombe, Jr.


Jeffrey O. Hall


Steven D. Aust


Kevin D. Welch


David D. Frame


Kenneth L. White


The pathogenesis of hepatotoxic and hepatocarcinogenic actions of the mycotoxin aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) involves initial bioactivation by microsomal cytochrome P450s (P450) to a reactive and electrophilic intermediate, exo-aflatoxin B1-8,9-epoxide (exo-AFBO). Poultry, especially turkeys, are extremely sensitive to AFB1, a condition associated with efficient epoxidation by P450s. The purpose of this research was to 1) discover and characterize the P450s in turkey liver responsible for AFB1 bioactivation, and 2) determine the relative importance of these P450s in turkey liver. Initial investigations led to the discovery of CYP1A5. We then identified CYP3A37, a human CYP3A4 homologue from turkey liver, which along with CYP1A5 plays an important role in the bioactivation of AFB1 to exo-AFBO. The E. coli-expressed CYP3A37 possessed striking similarities to human CYP3A4, in terms of its catalytic activities and the kinetics of AFB1 oxidation. After the discovery of CYP3A37, further research evaluated its relative importance to CYP1A5, with respect to the epoxidation of AFB1, to determine which of the homologues bioactivated relatively low "real world" AFB1 concentrations, reflective of the potential dietary exposure. Using antibodies directed to both the enzymes as tools in immuno-inhibition experiments, we determined that CYP1A5 contributes to about 98% of the exo-AFBO formation at the low AFB1 concentrations (0.1 µM), which led us to conclude that CYP1A5 is likely the dominant homologue involved in the extreme sensitivity of the turkeys to AFB1. CYP3A37 also efficiently epoxidated AFB1, but only at high concentrations of this mycotoxin, not likely to be achievable in turkey liver in vivo. Our research has helped shed light on the relative importance of CYP1A5 and CYP3A37 in the bioactivation of AFB1 to the toxic exo-AFBO, and thus on the mechanisms of the extreme sensitivity of turkeys to AFB1. Given that AFB1 is a ubiquitous component of corn-based poultry feed and contamination is practically unavoidable, we conducted further studies evaluating the chemopreventive action of probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus, on AFB1 toxicity in turkeys. Probiotic bacteria are known to bind AFB1, thus reducing its bioavailability. A mix of probiotic bacteria provided protection against key endpoints of aflatoxicosis, like AFB1-induced reduction in body and liver weights. Our data demonstrate that Lactobacillus was protective against aflatoxicosis in turkeys, thus validating its use as a possible chemopreventive, thereby helping alleviate the significant annual losses to the poultry industry due to feed contamination by AFB1.