Mycotoxin zearalenone induces AIF- and ROS-mediated cell death through p53- and MAPK-dependent signaling pathways in RAW264.7 macrophages

Ji Yeon Yu, Zhong Hua Zheng, Young Ok Son, Xianglin Shi, Young Oh Jang, Jeong Chae Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Zearalenone (ZEN) is commonly found in many food commodities and is known to cause reproductive disorders and genotoxic effects. However, the mode of ZEN-induced cell death of macrophages and the mechanisms by which ZEN causes cytotoxicity remain unclear. The present study shows that ZEN treatment reduces viability of RAW264.7 cells in a dose-dependent manner. ZEN causes predominantly necrotic and late apoptotic cell death. ZEN treatment also results in the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), mitochondrial changes in Bcl-2 and Bax proteins, and cytoplasmic release of cytochrome c and apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF). Pre-treatment of the cells with either z-VAD-fmk or z-IETD-fmk does not attenuate ZEN-mediated cell death, whereas catalase suppresses the ZEN-induced decrease in viability in RAW264.7 cells. Treating the cells with c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), or p53 inhibitor prevented ZEN-mediated changes, such as MMP loss, cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) increase, and cell death. JNK or p38 MAPK inhibitor inhibited mitochondrial alterations of Bcl-2 and Bax proteins with attendant decreases in cellular ROS levels. Knockdown of AIF via siRNA transfection also diminished ZEN-induced cell death. Further, adenosine triphosphate was markedly depleted in the ZEN-exposed cells. Collectively, these results suggest that ZEN induces cytotoxicity in RAW264.7 cells via AIF- and ROS-mediated signaling, in which the activations of p53 and JNK/p38 play a key role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1654-1663
Number of pages10
JournalToxicology in Vitro
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (No. 2009-0067712 ).


  • AIF
  • MAPK
  • P53
  • RAW264.7 macrophages
  • ROS
  • Zearalenone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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