Metabolic fate and toxicity reduction of aflatoxin B1 after uptake by edible Tenebrio molitor larvae
The use of insects as food and feed is gaining more attention for ecological and ethical reasons. Despite the high tolerance of edible yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) larvae to aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), the metabolic fate of the toxin along with its toxic potential in the insect is uncertain. The present study aimed at investigating the AFB1 mass balance and the metabolite formation in a feeding trial with AFB1-contaminated grain flour. T. molitor larvae tolerated the AFB1 level of 10,700 μg/kg in the feed, however, weight gain was decreased by 15% over a 4-weeks feeding period. The investigation of the phase I metabolite pattern revealed the formation of AFM1 and a novel presumably monohydroxylated compound in larvae extracts that was not formed by reference incubation with rat, bovine or porcine liver microsomes. Mass balance quantification of ingested AFB1 revealed that 87% of the initial toxin remain undetected in larval body or residue. Analysis of histone H2Ax phosphorylation in human liver cells as a surrogate for genotoxicity showed that extracts from exposed larvae did not exhibit an elevated toxic potential. Although toxicological uncertainties remain due to the undetected transformation products, the resulting mutagenicity of the edible larvae appears to be low.