Assessment of human deoxynivalenol exposure using an LC-MS/MS based biomarker method

Toxicol Lett. 2012 May 20;211(1):85-90. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2012.02.023. Epub 2012 Mar 10.


The Fusarium toxin deoxynivalenol (DON) is one of the most abundant mycotoxins worldwide and poses many adverse health effects to human and animals. Consequently, regulatory limits and a provisional maximum tolerable daily intake (PMTDI) for this important type B-trichothecene were assigned. We conducted a pilot survey to investigate the level of DON exposure in Austrian adults by measurements of DON and its glucuronide conjugates (DON-GlcA's), as biomarkers of exposure, in first morning urine. The average concentration of total DON (free DON+DON-GlcA's) was estimated to be 20.4±2.4 μg L⁻¹ (max. 63 μg L⁻¹). Surprisingly, we found that one third of the volunteers (n=27) exceeded the established PMTDI when consuming regular diet. DON-GlcA's were directly quantified by LC-MS/MS and the results were compared with indirect quantification after enzymatic hydrolysis and confirmed the suitability of the direct method. Moreover, we investigated the in vivo metabolism of DON in humans and were able to determine two closely eluting DON-GlcA's in naturally contaminated urine samples for the first time. In contrast to previous findings we have tentatively identified DON-15-glucuronide as a major DON metabolite in human urine based on the analysis of these samples. About 75% of total glucuronides were derived from this metabolite while DON-3-glucuronide accounted for approximately 25%. The reported new findings clearly demonstrate the great potential of suitable biomarkers to critically assess exposure of humans and animals to DON.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Austria
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Creatinine / urine
  • Diet
  • Environmental Exposure* / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure* / statistics & numerical data
  • Glucuronides / urine
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycotoxins / pharmacokinetics
  • Mycotoxins / urine*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Trichothecenes / pharmacokinetics
  • Trichothecenes / urine*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Glucuronides
  • Mycotoxins
  • Trichothecenes
  • deoxynivalenol-15-glucuronide
  • deoxynivalenol-3-glucuronide
  • Creatinine
  • deoxynivalenol