The group of the small-spored Alternaria species is particularly relevant in foods due to its high frequency and wide distribution in different crops. These species are responsible for the accumulation of mycotoxins and bioactive secondary metabolites in food. The taxonomy of the genus has been recently revised with particular attention on them; several morphospecies within this group cannot be segregated by phylogenetic methods, and the most recent classifications proposed to elevate several phylogenetic species-groups to the taxonomic status of section. The purpose of the present study was to compare the new taxonomic revisions in Alternaria with secondary metabolite profiles with special focus on sections Alternaria and Infectoriae and food safety. A total of 360 small-spored Alternaria isolates from Argentinean food crops (tomato fruit, pepper fruit, blueberry, apple, wheat grain, walnut, pear, and plum) was morphologically identified to species-group according to Simmons (2007), and their secondary metabolite profile was determined. The isolates belonged to A. infectoria sp.-grp. (19), A. tenuissima sp.-grp. (262), A. arborescens sp.-grp. (40), and A. alternata sp.-grp. (7); 32 isolates, presenting characteristics overlapping between the last three groups, were classified as Alternaria sp. A high chemical diversity was observed; 78 different metabolites were detected, 31 of them of known chemical structure. The isolates from A. infectoria sp.-grp. (=Alternaria section Infectoriae) presented a specific secondary metabolite profile, different from the other species-groups. Infectopyrones, novae-zelandins and phomapyrones were the most frequent metabolites produced by section Infectoriae. Altertoxin-I and alterperylenol were the only compounds that these isolates produced in common with members of section Alternaria. None of the well-known Alternaria toxins, considered relevant in foods, namely alternariol (AOH), alternariol monomethyl ether (AME), tenuazonic acid (TeA), tentoxin (TEN) or altenuene (ALT), were produced by isolates of this section. On the other hand, strains from section Alternaria (A. tenuissima, A. arborescens, and A. alternata sp.-grps.) shared a common metabolite profile, indistinguishable from each other. AOH, AME, ALT, TEN, and TeA were the most frequently mycotoxins produced, together with pyrenochaetic acid A and altechromone A. Alternaria section Alternaria represents a substantial risk in food, since their members in all types of crops are able to produce the toxic metabolites.
- Food safety
- Secondary metabolite profiles
- Section Alternaria
- Section Infectoriae