Journal of toxicology and environmental health. Part B, Critical reviews

Deoxynivalenol: toxicology and potential effects on humans.

PMID 15762554


Deoxynivalenol (DON) is a mycotoxin that commonly contaminates cereal-based foods worldwide. At the molecular level, DON disrupts normal cell function by inhibiting protein synthesis via binding to the ribosome and by activating critical cellular kinases involved in signal transduction related to proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. Relative to toxicity, there are marked species differences, with the pig being most sensitive to DON, followed by rodent > dog > cat > poultry > ruminants. The physiologic parameter that is most sensitive to low-level DON exposure is the emetic response, with as little as 0.05 to 0.1 mg/kg body weight (bw) inducing vomiting in swine and dogs. Chinese epidemiological studies suggest that DON may also produce emetic effects in humans. With respect to chronic effects, growth (anorexia and decreased nutritional efficiency), immune function, (enhancement and suppression), and reproduction (reduced litter size) are also adversely affected by DON in animals, whereas incidence of neoplasia is not affected. When hazard evaluations were conducted using existing chronic toxicity data and standard safety factors employed for anthropogenic additives/contaminants in foods, tolerable daily intakes (TDIs) ranging from 1 to 5 microg/kg bw have been generated. Given that critical data gaps still exist regarding the potential health effects of DON, additional research is needed to improve capacity for assessing adverse health effects of this mycotoxin. Critical areas for future DON research include molecular mechanisms underlying toxicity, sensitivity of human cells/tissues relative to other species, emetic effects in primates, epidemiological association with gastroenteritis and chronic disease in humans, and surveillance in cereal crops worldwide.