Is intraspecific variability of growth and mycotoxin production dependent on environmental conditions? A study with Aspergillus carbonarius isolates
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The aim of this study was to assess the impact of suboptimal environmental conditions on the intraspecific variability of A. carbonarius growth and OTA production using thirty isolates of A. carbonarius. Three aw/temperature conditions were tested, one optimal (0.98aw/25 °C) and two suboptimal: 0.90aw/25 °C and 0.98aw/37 °C as suboptimal water activity and temperature, respectively, which might take place through over ripening and dehydration of grapes. For each condition, 12 Petri dishes were inoculated, and colony growth and OTA production were measured over time. ANOVA revealed significant differences among μ and λ within the 30 assayed isolates. Coefficients of variation (CV%) revealed a wider dispersion of growth rates at 0.90aw/25 °C compared to 0.98aw/25 °C, and a more than 4-fold higher CV at 0.98aw/37 °C compared to 0.98aw/25 °C. However, dispersion of lag phases was similar at 0.98aw/25 °C and 0.90aw/25 °C and wider at 0.98aw/37 °C. There were significant differences (p < 0.05) among OTA levels (ng/mm2) for the different conditions, values being lower under marginal conditions, and particularly at 0.98aw/37 °C. Coefficients of variation (CV%) revealed a wider dispersion of OTA production at 0.90aw/25 °C compared to 0.98aw/25 °C, while CV at 0.98aw/37 °C was similar to that at 0.98aw/25 °C. In order to address the strain variability in growth initiation and prove the well-established notion of reducing OTA in foods by preventing fungal growth, a greater number of strains should be included when developing models for conditions that are suboptimal both for aw for OTA production and temperature levels for growth.