The estrogen-like mycotoxin zearalenone (ZEN) is one of the most widely distributed contaminants especially in maize and its commodities, such as corn oil. ZEN degrading enzymes possess the potential for counteracting the negative effect of ZEN and its associated high safety risk in corn oil. Herein, we targeted enhancing the secretion of ZEN degrading enzyme by Pichia pastoris through constructing an expression plasmid containing three optimized expression cassettes of zlhy-6 codon and signal peptides. Further, we explored various parameters of enzymatic detoxification in neutralized oil and analyzed tocopherols and sterols losses in the corn oil. In addition, the distribution of degraded products was demonstrated as well by Agilent 6510 Quadrupole Time-of-Flight mass spectrometry. P. pastoris GSZ with the glucoamylase signal was observed with the highest ZLHY-6 secretion yield of 0.39 mg/mL. During the refining of corn oil, ZEN in the crude oil was reduced from 1257.3 to 13 µg/kg (3.69% residual) after neutralization and enzymatic detoxification. Compared with the neutralized oil, no significant difference in the total tocopherols and sterols contents was detected after enzymatic detoxification. Finally, the degraded products were found to be entirely eliminated by washing. This study presents an enzymatic strategy for efficient and safe ZEN removal with relatively low nutrient loss, which provides an important basis for further application of enzymatic ZEN elimination in the industrial process of corn oil production.
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