Specific lactic acid bacterial strains remove toxins from liquid media by physical binding. The stability of the aflatoxin B1 complexes formed with 12 bacterial strains in both viable and nonviable (heat- or acid-treated) forms was assessed by repetitive aqueous extraction. By the fifth extraction, up to 71% of the total aflatoxin B1 remained bound. Nonviable bacteria retained the highest amount of aflatoxin B1. Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG (ATCC 53103) and L. rhamnosus strain LC-705 (DSM 7061) removed aflatoxin B1 from solution most efficiently and were selected for further study. The accessibility of bound aflatoxin B1 to an antibody in an indirect competitive inhibition enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay suggests that surface components of these bacteria are involved in binding. Further evidence is the recovery of around 90% of the bound aflatoxin from the bacteria by solvent extraction. Autoclaving and sonication did not release any detectable aflatoxin B1. Variation in temperature (4 to 37°C) and pH (2 to 10) did not have any significant effect on the amount of aflatoxin B1 released. Binding of aflatoxin B1 appears to be predominantly extracellular for viable and heat-treated bacteria. Acid treatment may permit intracellular binding. In all cases, binding is of a reversible nature, but the stability of the complexes formed depends on strain, treatment, and environmental conditions
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