The mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) is an abundant contaminant of cereal based food and a severe issue for global food safety. We report the discovery of DON-3-sulfate as a novel human metabolite and potential new biomarker of DON exposure. The conjugate was detectable in 70% of urine samples obtained from pregnant women in Croatia. For the measurement of urinary metabolites, a highly sensitive and selective LC-MS/MS method was developed and validated. The method was also used to investigate samples from a duplicate diet survey for studying the toxicokinetics of DON-3-sulfate. To get a preliminary insight into the biological relevance of the newly discovered DON-sulfates, in vitroexperiments were performed. In contrast to DON, sulfate conjugates lacked potency to suppress protein translation. However, surprisingly we found that DON-sulfates enhanced proliferation of human HT-29 colon carcinoma cells, primary human colon epithelial cells (HCEC-1CT) and, to some extent, also T24 bladder cancer cells. A proliferative stimulus, especially in tumorigenic cells raises concern on the potential impact of DON-sulfates on consumer health. Thus, a further characterization of their toxicological relevance should be of high priority. © The Author(s) 2016.