The effect of individual and mixtures of mycotoxins and persistent organochloride pesticides on oestrogen receptor transcriptional activation using in vitro reporter gene assays

Food Chem Toxicol. 2019 Aug:130:68-78. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2019.05.014. Epub 2019 May 10.


The mycotoxins zearalenone (ZEN) and alpha-zearalenone (α-ZOL), which are common contaminants of agri-food products, are known for their oestrogenic potential. In addition to mycotoxins, food may also contain pesticides with oestrogenic properties such as 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl) ethane (p,p'-DDT) and 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl) ethylene (p,p'-DDE), raising the question on the potential effects of individual and combinations of these xeno-oestrogens on the action of natural oestrogens. The present study employed a mammalian reporter gene assay to assess the effects individual and binary combinations of these environmental and food-borne contaminants on oestrogen nuclear receptor (ER) transactivation. As expected, α-ZOL and ZEN exhibited the strongest oestrogenic potency (EC50: 0.27 ± 0.121 nM and 1.32 ± 0.0956 nM, respectively) whereas p,p'-DDT and p,p'-DDE had weak ER agonistic activity with the maximal response of 28.70 ± 2.97% and 18.65 ± 1.77%, respectively. Concurrent treatment of the mycotoxins and/or pesticides, individually or in binary combination, with 17β-oestradiol (E2) showed either additive, synergistic or antagonistic interactive effects on E2-mediated ER response, depending on the combination ratios, the concentration range of xeno-oestrogens, and the concentration of E2. This study highlights the importance of assessing the mixture effects of chemical contaminants in risk assessment, especially in the area of reproductive and developmental toxicity.

Keywords: Chemical mixtures; Endocrine disruptor; Food-borne chemical contaminants; Mycotoxins; Reporter gene assay; Reproductive and developmental toxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Genes, Reporter / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / toxicity*
  • Mycotoxins / toxicity*
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Transcriptional Activation / drug effects*


  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Mycotoxins
  • Pesticides
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Estradiol