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Sub-acute feeding study of a tall fescue endophyte in a perennial ryegrass host using mice

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posted on 2023-05-10, 07:47 authored by Sarah FinchSarah Finch, Nicola Webb, John Munday, Jan SprosenJan Sprosen, Vanessa Cave
Epichloë endophytes in grass associations express a myriad of secondary metabolites which can affect the health of grazing animals and reduce the impact of insect pests on pasture. The ideal endophyte-grass association must have a favourable chemical profile such that the impact on animal health is minimised while the beneficial, deterrent effect on insect pests is maximised. A number of endophyte-perennial ryegrass associations have been successfully commercialised but research is on-going to further improve production in farming systems. Secondary metabolites expressed by endophyte-infected tall fescue include lolines, an animal-safe class of compound which imparts a potent effect on insects. Since endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass does not express lolines, a tall fescue endophyte, AR501, was inoculated into perennial ryegrass in an attempt to improve the insect resistance of this pasture type. In addition to animal safety, it is imperative that consideration is given to the safety of humans consuming animal products derived from livestock grazing the novel pasture. Although pure loline alkaloids have previously been tested on mice it is essential that the entire AR501 endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass matrix is tested since this will result in the exposure of both known and unknown secondary metabolites to mice. Three treatment groups each containing 6 male and 6 female mice were fed diets containing AR501 endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass seed (30%), perennial ryegrass seed containing no endophyte (30%) or a diet without seed (control) for 3 weeks. Mice fed control diet ate more than either of the treatment groups fed a diet containing seed. Male mice fed diet containing Nil endophyte seed ate more than those eating AR501 endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass seed although there was no difference observed in the food intake of female mice. While a few statistically significant differences were observed in the haematology and serum biochemical data, in every instance the difference was restricted to only one gender so is considered unlikely to be of toxicological significance. Mice fed AR501 endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass seed remained healthy throughout the experimental period despite consuming 62,000 mg/kg lolines and 4600 mg/kg peramine per day as well as the wide array of other unknown secondary metabolites expressed by this endophyte. Although animal products may contain additional metabolites as a result of animal metabolism, this experiment raises no food safety concerns for AR501 endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass.


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Finch, S. C., Webb, N. G., Munday, J. S., Sprosen, J. M., & Cave, V. M. (2022). Sub-acute feeding study of a tall fescue endophyte in a perennial ryegrass host using mice. Toxicon, 214, 30–36.

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