DNA damage by mycotoxins

Jia Sheng Wang, John D. Groopman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mycotoxins are toxic fungal metabolites which are structurally diverse, common contaminants of the ingredients of animal feed and human food. To date, mycotoxins with carcinogenic potency in experimental animal models include aflatoxins, sterigmatocystin, ochratoxin, fumonisins, zearalenone, and some Penicillium toxins. Most of these carcinogenic mycotoxins are genotoxic agents with the exception of fumonisins, which is currently believed to act by disrupting the signal transduction pathways of the target cells. Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), a category I known human carcinogen and the most potent genotoxic agent, is mutagenic in many model systems and produces chromosomal aberrations, micronuclei, sister chromatid exchange, unscheduled DNA synthesis, and chromosomal strand breaks, as well as forms adducts in rodent and human cells. The predominant AFB1-DNA adduct was identified as 8,9-dihydro-8-(N7-guanyl)-9-hydroxy-AFB1 (AFB1-N7-Gua), which derives from covalent bond formation between C8 of AFB1-8,9-epoxides and N7 of guanine bases in DNA. Initial AFB1-N7-guanine adduct can convert to a ring-opened formamidopyrimidine derivative, AFB1-FAPY. The formation of AFB1-N7-guanine adduct was linear over the low-dose range in all species examined, and liver, the primary target organ, had the highest level of the adduct. Formation of initial AFB1-N7-guanine adduct was correlated with the incidence of hepatic tumor in trout and rats. The AFB1-N7-guanine adduct was removed from DNA rapidly and was excreted exclusively in urine of exposed rats. Several human studies have validated the similar correlation between dietary exposure to AFB1 and excretion of AFB1-N7-guanine in urine. Replication of DNA containing AFB1-N7-guanine adduct-induced G→T mutations in an experimental model. Activation of ras protooncogene has been found in AFB1-induced tumors in mouse, rat, and fish. More strikingly, the relationship between aflatoxin exposure and development of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HHC) was demonstrated by the studies on the p53 tumor suppressor gene. High frequency of p53 mutations (G→T transversion at codon 249) was found to occur in HHC collected from populations exposed to high levels of dietary aflatoxin in China and Southern Africa. Furthermore, AFB1-induced DNA damage and hepatocarcinogenesis in experimental models can be modulated by a variety of factors including nutrients, chemopreventive agents, and other factors such as food restriction and viral infection, as well as genetic polymorphisms. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-181
Number of pages15
JournalMutation Research - Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 8 1999


  • Aflatoxin
  • Aflatoxin B-N-guanine adduct
  • DNA damage
  • Human hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Mycotoxin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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