Open Access Research

Conversion of deoxynivalenol to 3-acetyldeoxynivalenol in barley-derived fuel ethanol co-products with yeast expressing trichothecene 3-O-acetyltransferases

Piyum A Khatibi1, Justin Montanti3, Nhuan P Nghiem3, Kevin B Hicks3, Greg Berger2, Wynse S Brooks2, Carl A Griffey2 and David G Schmale1*

Author Affiliations

1 Virginia Tech, Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science, Blacksburg, VA 24061, Virginia Tech, USA

2 Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA

3 Sustainable Biofuels and Co-Products Research Unit, USDA, ARS, Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, PA 19038, USA

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Biotechnology for Biofuels 2011, 4:26  doi:10.1186/1754-6834-4-26

Published: 2 September 2011



The trichothecene mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) may be concentrated in distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS; a co-product of fuel ethanol fermentation) when grain containing DON is used to produce fuel ethanol. Even low levels of DON (≤ 5 ppm) in DDGS sold as feed pose a significant threat to the health of monogastric animals. New and improved strategies to reduce DON in DDGS need to be developed and implemented to address this problem. Enzymes known as trichothecene 3-O-acetyltransferases convert DON to 3-acetyldeoxynivalenol (3ADON), and may reduce its toxicity in plants and animals.


Two Fusarium trichothecene 3-O-acetyltransferases (FgTRI101 and FfTRI201) were cloned and expressed in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) during a series of small-scale ethanol fermentations using barley (Hordeum vulgare). DON was concentrated 1.6 to 8.2 times in DDGS compared with the starting ground grain. During the fermentation process, FgTRI101 converted 9.2% to 55.3% of the DON to 3ADON, resulting in DDGS with reductions in DON and increases in 3ADON in the Virginia winter barley cultivars Eve, Thoroughbred and Price, and the experimental line VA06H-25. Analysis of barley mashes prepared from the barley line VA04B-125 showed that yeast expressing FfTRI201 were more effective at acetylating DON than those expressing FgTRI101; DON conversion for FfTRI201 ranged from 26.1% to 28.3%, whereas DON conversion for FgTRI101 ranged from 18.3% to 21.8% in VA04B-125 mashes. Ethanol yields were highest with the industrial yeast strain Ethanol Red®, which also consumed galactose when present in the mash.


This study demonstrates the potential of using yeast expressing a trichothecene 3-O-acetyltransferase to modify DON during commercial fuel ethanol fermentation.