A genome-wide screen in Saccharomyces cerevisiae reveals a critical role for the mitochondria in the toxicity of a trichothecene mycotoxin

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Dec 22;106(51):21883-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0909777106. Epub 2009 Dec 9.


Trichothecene mycotoxins synthesized by Fusarium species are potent inhibitors of eukaryotic translation. They are encountered in both the environment and in food, posing a threat to human and animal health. They have diverse roles in the cell that are not limited to the inhibition of protein synthesis. To understand the trichothecene mechanism of action, we screened the yeast knockout library to identify genes whose deletion confers resistance to trichothecin (Tcin). The largest group of resistant strains affected mitochondrial function, suggesting a role for fully active mitochondria in trichothecene toxicity. Tcin inhibited mitochondrial translation in the wild-type strain to a greater extent than in the most resistant strains, implicating mitochondrial translation as a previously unrecognized site of action. The Tcin-resistant strains were cross-resistant to anisomycin and chloramphenicol, suggesting that Tcin targets the peptidyltransferase center of mitochondrial ribosomes. Tcin-induced cell death was partially rescued by mutants that regulate mitochondrial fusion and maintenance of the tubular morphology of mitochondria. Treatment of yeast cells with Tcin led to the fragmentation of the tubular mitochondrial network, supporting a role for Tcin in disruption of mitochondrial membrane morphology. These results provide genome-wide insight into the mode of action of trichothecene mycotoxins and uncover a critical role for mitochondrial translation and membrane maintenance in their toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chloramphenicol / pharmacology
  • Genes, Fungal*
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mycotoxins / toxicity*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / drug effects
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Trichothecenes / toxicity*


  • Mycotoxins
  • Trichothecenes
  • Chloramphenicol