Patulin (PAT) belongs to the family of food-borne mycotoxins. Our previous studies revealed that PAT caused cytotoxicity in human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293). In the present research, we systematically explored the detailed mechanism of ROS production and ROS clearance in PAT-induced HEK293 cell apoptosis. Results showed that PAT treatment (2.5, 5, 7.5, 10 μM) for 10 h could regulate the expression of genes and proteins involved in the mitochondrial respiratory chain complex, resulting in dysfunction of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation and induction of ROS overproduction. We further investigated the role of N-acetylcysteine (NAC), an ROS scavenger, in promoting the survival of PAT-treated HEK293 cells. NAC improves PAT-induced apoptosis of HEK293 cells by clearing excess ROS, modulating the expression of mitochondrial respiratory chain complex genes and proteins, and maintaining normal mitochondrial function. In addition, NAC protects the activity of antioxidant enzymes, maintains normal GSH content, and relieves oxidative damage. Additionally, 4 mM NAC alleviated 7.5 μM PAT-mediated apoptosis through the caspase pathway in HEK293 cells. In summary, our study demonstrated that ROS is significant in PAT-mediated cytotoxicity, which provides valuable insight into the management of PAT-associated health issues.
Keywords: PAT; ROS; apoptosis; mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation; oxidative stress.