Measurement of urinary concentrations of the mycotoxins zearalenone and sterigmatocystin as biomarkers of exposure in mares

Reprod Domest Anim. 2018 Feb;53(1):68-73. doi: 10.1111/rda.13054. Epub 2017 Sep 18.


Mycotoxins may affect animal health, including reproduction. Little is known about the clinical relevance of exposure of horses to contaminated feed. This study aimed at (i) monitoring the levels of the mycotoxins zearalenone (ZEN), with its metabolites α- and β-zearalenol (α- and β-ZOL), and sterigmatocystin (STC) in urine samples from thoroughbred mares in Japan and (ii) relating these findings to the potential effects on reproductive efficacy of breeding mares. Sixty-three urine samples of breeding mares from 59 breeding farms were used. Urine samples and reproductive records were collected from each mare when it was presented to the stallion station. Urinary concentrations of ZEN, α- and β-ZOL, and STC were measured using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). ZEN, α- and β-ZOL were measurable in the urine of all examined mares, indicating the prevalence of ZEN in equine feeds. In seven of the 63 samples, STC was also detected at levels ranging from 1.3 to 18.0 pg/mg creatinine. No significant correlation between the concentrations of mycotoxins and pregnancy status was observed. In conclusion, measurement of mycotoxins in urine samples is a useful non-invasive method for monitoring the systemic exposure of mares to multiple mycotoxins.

Keywords: horse; mycotoxin; sterigmatocystin; urine; zearalenone.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / urine*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal / urine
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects
  • Food Contamination
  • Horses*
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Mycotoxins / urine
  • Pregnancy
  • Sterigmatocystin / analogs & derivatives
  • Sterigmatocystin / urine*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Zearalenone / urine*
  • Zeranol / analogs & derivatives
  • Zeranol / urine


  • Biomarkers
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Mycotoxins
  • zearalenol
  • Sterigmatocystin
  • Zearalenone
  • Zeranol