The intestinal barrier as an emerging target in the toxicological assessment of mycotoxins

Peyman Akbari, Saskia Braber*, Soheil Varasteh, Arash Alizadeh, Johan Garssen, Johanna Fink-Gremmels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Mycotoxins, the secondary metabolites of fungal species, are the most frequently occurring natural food contaminants in human and animal diets. Risk assessment of mycotoxins focused as yet on their mutagenic, genotoxic and potential carcinogenic effects. Recently, there is an increasing awareness of the adverse effects of various mycotoxins on vulnerable structures in the intestines. In particular, an impairment of the barrier function of the epithelial lining cells and the sealing tight junction proteins has been noted, as this could result in an increased translocation of luminal antigens and pathogens and an excessive activation of the immune system. The current review aims to provide a summary of the available evidence regarding direct effects of various mycotoxins on the intestinal epithelial barrier. Available data, based on different cellular and animal studies, show that food-associated exposure to certain mycotoxins, especially trichothecenes and patulin, affects the intestinal barrier integrity and can result in an increased translocation of harmful stressors. It is therefore hypothesized that human exposure to certain mycotoxins, particularly deoxynivalenol, as the major trichothecene, may play an important role in etiology of various chronic intestinal inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, and in the prevalence of food allergies, particularly in children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1007-1029
Number of pages23
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Intestinal permeability
  • Mucosal inflammation
  • Mycotoxins
  • Tight junction proteins


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