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J Immunol. 2009 May 15;182(10):6418-25. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0803309.

Trichothecene mycotoxins activate inflammatory response in human macrophages.

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Unit of Excellence for Immunotoxicology, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland.


Damp building-related illnesses have caused concern for years in many countries. Although the problem is extensive, the knowledge of the immunological reactions behind damp building-related illnesses is still quite limited. Trichothecene mycotoxins form one major group of toxins, which possibly contribute to the illnesses. Stachybotrys chartarum is a well-known, but also controversial damp building mold and many strains of this mold are capable of producing trichothecenes. In this report, we have examined the effect of S. chartarum and trichothecene mycotoxins on the proinflammatory cytokine response in human macrophages. As a result, satratoxin-positive S. chartarum activated inflammasome-associated caspase-1, which is needed for proteolytic processing of IL-1beta and IL-18. Furthermore, purified trichothecene mycotoxins, roridin A, verrucarin A, and T-2 toxin activated caspase-1, and these mycotoxins also strongly enhanced LPS-dependent secretion of IL-1beta and IL-18. The satratoxin-positive strain of S. chartarum and the trichothecenes also triggered the activation of caspase-3, which is an effector caspase of apoptosis. Satratoxin-negative S. chartarum was not able to activate either caspase-1 or caspase-3. In conclusion, our results indicate that human macrophages sense trichothecene mycotoxins as a danger signal, which activates caspase-1, and further enables the secretion of IL-1beta and IL-18 from the LPS-primed cells.

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