A number of 21 Aspergillus sp. strains isolated from cowpeas from Benin (Africa) were characterized by RAPD methodology. Seven of these strains grouped with A. flavus in the dendrogram generated with the RAPD data. Only three were able to produce aflatoxin in significant amounts. Twelve other isolates grouped with A. parasiticus. All of these strains except 3 produced aflatoxin. Two additional strains neither fit with the A. flavus group, nor the A. parasiticus group according to their RAPD pattern. Both did not produce aflatoxin in measurable amounts.
Generally the aflatoxin positive strains produced high amounts of aflatoxin after growth on YES medium. However after growth on cowpea based medium aflatoxin biosynthesis was strongly ceased, albeit the growth of the colony was only partly reduced. This was true for media made either with the whole cowpea seed or with cowpea seed without seed coat. Interestingly when the cowpea medium was heat sterilized the fungus was able to produce high amounts of aflatoxin. This, however, was not the case after the use of gamma irradiation as sterilization method for the medium. The expression of the nor- 1 gene, which is one of the early genes involved in aflatoxin biosynthesis, was significantly repressed after growth on gamma irradiated cowpea medium in contrast to YES medium.