In the research area of Food Mycology, the physiology and molecular biology of filamentous fungi which play a role as spoilage or toxin-producing organisms are investigated. The research focuses on the elucidation of the regulatory mechanisms for mycotoxin biosynthesis at both molecular and physiological level. The emphasis of these investigations is on the influences of environmental conditions which lead to mycotoxin synthesis in the plant food product. The aim of this approach is to develop new procedures which prevent mycotoxin production in such foods. The influence of external factors such as substrate composition, temperature, water activity or pH value on mycotoxin gene activation, and hence mycotoxin production, are investigated by transcriptional analyses. The systematic transcription results obtained are used for the generation of models for predicting mycotoxin biosynthesis. Moreover, different key functions of signal cascades involved in mycotoxin synthesis are investigated in order to obtain information on the relationship between environmental parameters (in food) and gene regulation at transcriptional level. Special emphasis in this area of research is on the HOG and G-protein/cAMP/PKA signaling cascades, which conduct signals upon osmotic and oxidative stress. Further research deals with post-translational modifications at protein level. Lastly, analytical methods are used to quantify mycotoxins produced under differential growth conditions.
By gaining knowledge on the genetic regulation of mycotoxin production in food-relevant filamentous fungi, our research aims to increase the safety of plant foods by developing strategies which can decrease, or in the optimal case even prevent, contamination and mycotoxin biosynthesis.