Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 93, Issue 11, pp 3041–3056 | Cite as

T-2 toxin neurotoxicity: role of oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction

  • Chongshan DaiEmail author
  • Xilong Xiao
  • Feifei Sun
  • Yuan Zhang
  • Daniel Hoyer
  • Jianzhong Shen
  • Shusheng TangEmail author
  • Tony VelkovEmail author
Review Article


Mycotoxins are highly diverse secondary metabolites produced in nature by a wide variety of fungi. Mycotoxins cause animal feed and food contamination, resulting in mycotoxicosis. T-2 toxin is one of the most common and toxic trichothecene mycotoxins. For the last decade, it has garnered considerable attention due to its potent neurotoxicity. Worryingly, T-2 toxin can cross the blood–brain barrier and accumulate in the central nervous system (CNS) to cause neurotoxicity. This review covers the current knowledge base on the molecular mechanisms of T-2 toxin-induced oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in the CNS. In vitro and animal data have shown that induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress plays a critical role during T-2 toxin-induced neurotoxicity. Mitochondrial dysfunction and cascade signaling pathways including p53, MAPK, Akt/mTOR, PKA/CREB and NF-κB contribute to T-2 toxin-induced neuronal cell death. T-2 toxin exposure can also result in perturbations of mitochondrial respiratory chain complex and mitochondrial biogenesis. T-2 toxin exposure decreases the mitochondria unfolded protein response and dampens mitochondrial energy metabolism. Antioxidants such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC), activation of Nrf2/HO-1 and autophagy have been shown to provide a protective effect against these detrimental effects. Clearly, translational research and the discovery of effective treatment strategies are urgently required against this common food-borne threat to human health and livestock.

Article Highlights

  1. (1)

    This review covers the main signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms of T-2 toxin induced neurotoxicity.

  2. (2)

    Oxidative stress and mitochondria dysfunction play a critical role during T-2 toxin induced neurotoxicity.

  3. (3)

    Perturbations to the mitochondrial respiratory chain complex and mitochondrial biogenesis occur as a result of T-2 toxin exposure.

  4. (4)

    T-2 toxin exposure results in perturbed mitochondria unfolded protein response and mitochondrial energy metabolism.

  5. (5)

    T-2 toxin can induce the activation of autophagy and mitophagy which play a protective role.



T-2 toxin Neurotoxicity Oxidative stress Mitochondrial biogenesis Mitochondrial dysfunction 



S.T. and X.X. were supported by the Key Projects in Chinese National Science and Technology Pillar Program during the 12th Five-Year Plan Period (No. 2015BAD11B03) and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Project No. 2018YFC1603005).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declared there was no any conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Veterinary MedicineChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Division of Cardiology, Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of Texas Southwestern Medical CenterDallasUSA
  3. 3.Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health SciencesThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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