Modulation of porcine β-defensins 1 and 2 upon individual and combined Fusarium toxin exposure in a swine jejunal epithelial cell line

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Apr;79(7):2225-32. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03277-12. Epub 2013 Jan 25.


Defensins are small antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) that play an important role in the innate immune system of mammals. Since the effect of mycotoxin contamination of food and feed on the secretion of intestinal AMPs is poorly understood, the aim of this study was to elucidate the individual and combined effects of four common Fusarium toxins, deoxynivalenol (DON), nivalenol (NIV), zearalenone (ZEA), and fumonisin B1 (FB1), on the mRNA expression, protein secretion, and corresponding antimicrobial effects of porcine β-defensins 1 and 2 (pBD-1 and pBD-2) using a porcine jejunal epithelial cell line, IPEC-J2. In general, upregulation of pBD-1 and pBD-2 mRNA expression occurred following exposure to Fusarium toxins, individually and in mixtures (P < 0.05). However, no significant increase in secreted pBD-1 and pBD-2 protein levels was observed, as measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Supernatants from IPEC-J2 cells exposed to toxins, singly or in combination, however, possessed significantly less antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli than untreated supernatants. When single toxins and two-toxin combinations were assessed, toxicity effects were shown to be nonadditive (including synergism, potentiation, and antagonism), suggesting interactive toxin effects when cells are exposed to mycotoxin combinations. The results show that Fusarium toxins, individually and in mixtures, activate distinct antimicrobial defense mechanisms possessing the potential to alter the intestinal microbiota through diminished antimicrobial effects. Moreover, by evaluating toxin mixtures, this improved understanding of toxin effects will enable more effective risk assessments for common mycotoxin combinations observed in contaminated food and feed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Fusarium / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Mycotoxins / metabolism*
  • Swine
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • beta-Defensins / metabolism*


  • Mycotoxins
  • beta-Defensins