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Ochratoxins, and particularly ochratoxin A (OTA), are toxic fungal-derived contaminants of food and other agricultural products. Growing evidence supports the degradation of OTA by chemical, enzymatic and/or microbial means as a potential approach to remove this mycotoxin from food products. In particular, hydrolysis of OTA to ochratoxin α (OTα) and phenylalanine is the presumptive product of degradation in most cases. In the current study, we employed the zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryo, as a model of vertebrate development to evaluate, the teratogenicity of OTA and OTα. These studies show that OTA is potently active in the zebrafish embryo toxicity assay (ZETA), and that toxicity is both concentration- and time-dependent with discernible and quantifiable developmental toxicity observed at nanomolar concentrations. On the other hand, OTα had no significant effect on embryo development at all concentrations tested supporting a decreased toxicity of this degradation product. Taken together, these results suggest that ZETA is a useful, and highly sensitive, tool for evaluating OTA toxicity, as well as its degradation products, toward development of effective detoxification strategies. Specifically, the results obtained with ZETA, in the present study, further demonstrate the toxicity of OTA, and support its degradation via hydrolysis to OTα as an effective means of detoxification.



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