Journal of food protection

Genotoxicity assessment of five tremorgenic mycotoxins (fumitremorgen B, paxilline, penitrem A, verruculogen, and verrucosidin) produced by molds isolated from fermented meats.

PMID 14627292


A number of toxinogenic fungal species, particularly producers of tremorgenic mycotoxins, have been isolated from traditional fermented meats. Tremorgenic mycotoxins are a group of fungal metabolites known to act on the central nervous system, causing sustained tremors, convulsions, and death in animals. However, the mode of action of these mycotoxins has not been elucidated in detail, and their genotoxic capacity has hardly been investigated. Because genotoxicity is one of the most prominent toxicological end points in food safety testing, we assessed the genotoxicity of five tremorgenic mycotoxins (fumitremorgen B, paxilline, penitrem A, verrucosidin, and verruculogen) associated with molds found in fermented meats. The mycotoxins were tested in two short-term in vitro assays with the use of different genotoxic end points in different phylogenetic systems (the Ames Salmonella/mammalian-microsome assay and the single-cell gel electrophoresis assay of human lymphocytes). According to the results obtained in this study, all of the investigated mycotoxins except penitrem A exhibited a certain degree of genotoxicity. Verrucosidin appeared to have the highest toxic potential, testing positive in both assays. Verruculogen tested positive in the Salmonella/mammalian-microsome assay, and paxilline and fumitremorgen B caused DNA damage in human lymphocytes. The use of fungal starter cultures to avoid tremorgen contamination in fermented meats is recommended.