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Cytotoxicity Evaluation of Mycotoxins by an MTT-Bioassay

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A colorimetric tetrazolium (MTT) cleavage test was modified and established as a bioassay for the cytotoxicity of mycotoxins. Using the human erythroleukemia cell line K562 and porcine white blood cells (lymphocytes and granulocytes) we evaluated the influence of deoxynivalenol, ochratoxin A, and zearalenone on cellular MTT cleavage activity. The yellow MTT is reduced by mitochondrial enzymes of metabolically active cells into a dark blue formazan product, the optical density (OD) of which can be measured by an ELISA reader. After an exposure time of 24hours, concentrations of deoxynivalenol and ochratoxin A as low as 0.4 \gmg/mL were found to inhibit significantly the cleavage activity in K562 cells. Cytotoxicity in lymphocytes and granulocytes was observed at concentrations of 0.8 up to 0.4 \gmg/mL for deoxynivalenol and 3.1 and 0.8 \gmg/mL for ochratoxin A, respectively. Zearalenone concentrations of 25.0 to 12.5 \gm/mL inhibited the mitochondrial cleavage activity of lymphocytes and of K562 cells significantly, whereas in granulocytes none of the concentrations tested was proved to be toxic. Morphological findings on the ultrastractural level showed that toxin incubation (28 hours) resulted in massive cell damage. Similar alterations were observed in about 15% of control cells. This indicates, that the massive cytotoxic effect of the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol is more likely to be an unspecific than a specific one. The modified MTT cleavage assay was found to be a quick (28 hours) and efficient colorimetric test for examining the cytotoxicity of three mycotoxins. The simplicity and speed of the procedure, which allows the simultaneous testing of various parameters and the possibility of objective data analysis could establish this test as an additional bioassay for the evaluation of cytotoxicity of mycotoxins.

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Correspondence to Gerhard H Reubel.

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Reubel, G.H., Gareis, M. & Amselgruber, W.M. Cytotoxicity Evaluation of Mycotoxins by an MTT-Bioassay. Mycotox Res 3, 85–96 (1987).

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  • K562 Cell
  • Zearalenone
  • Deoxynivalenol
  • Cleavage Activity
  • Mycotoxin Research