Assessing the combined toxicity of the natural toxins, aflatoxin B1, fumonisin B1 and microcystin-LR by high content analysis

Julie P. Meneely*, Jana Hajšlová, Rudolf Krska, Christopher T. Elliott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
262 Downloads (Pure)


As human co-exposure to natural toxins through food and water is inevitable, risk assessments to safeguard health are necessary. Aflatoxin B1 and fumonisin B1, frequent co-contaminants of maize and microcystin-LR, produced in freshwater by cyanobacteria are all naturally occurring potent toxins that threaten human health. Populations in the poorest regions of the world may suffer repeated simultaneous exposure to these contaminants. Using High Content Analysis, multiple cytotoxicity endpoints were measured for the individual toxins and mixtures in various cell lines. Results highlighted that significant cytotoxic effects were observed for aflatoxin B1 in all cell lines while no cytotoxic effects were observed for fumonisin B1 or microcystin-LR. Aflatoxin B1/microcystin-LR was cytotoxic in the order HepG2 > Caco-2 > MDBK. Fumonisin B1/microcystin-LR affected MDBK cells. The ternary mixture was cytotoxic to all cell lines. Most combinations were additive, however antagonism was observed for binary and ternary mixtures in HepG2 and MDBK cell lines at low and high concentrations. Synergy was observed in all cell lines, including at low concentrations. The combination of these natural toxins may pose a significant risk to populations in less developed countries. Furthermore, the study highlights the complexity around trying to regulate for human exposure to multiple contaminants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-540
Number of pages14
JournalFood and Chemical Toxicology
Early online date22 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Aflatoxin B
  • Combined exposure
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Fumonisin B
  • High content analysis
  • Microcystin-LR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Toxicology


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