Fusaric acid induces mitochondrial stress in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HepG2) cells

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Fusarium spp are common contaminants of maize and produce many mycotoxins, including the fusariotoxin fusaric acid (FA). FA is a niacin related compound, chelator of divalent cations, and mediates toxicity via oxidative stress and possible mitochondrial dysregulation. Sirtuin 3 (SIRT3) is a stress response deacetylase that maintains proper mitochondrial function. We investigated the effect of FA on SIRT3 and oxidative and mitochondrial stress pathways in the hepatocellular carcinoma (HepG2) cell line. We determined FA toxicity (24 h incubation; IC50 = 104 μg/ml) on mitochondrial output, cellular and mitochondrial stress responses, mitochondrial biogenesis and markers of cell death using spectrophotometry, luminometry, qPCR and western blots. FA caused a dose dependent decrease in metabolic activity along with significant depletion of intracellular ATP. FA induced a significant increase in lipid peroxidation, despite up-regulation of the antioxidant transcription factor, Nrf2. FA significantly decreased expression of SIRT3 mRNA with a concomitant decrease in protein expression. Lon protease was also significantly down-regulated. FA induced aberrant mitochondrial biogenesis as evidenced by significantly decreased protein expressions of: PGC-1α, p-CREB, NRF1 and HSP70. Finally, FA activated apoptosis as noted by the significantly increased activity of caspases 3/7 and also induced cellular necrosis. This study provides insight into the molecular mechanisms of FA (a neglected mycotoxin) induced hepatotoxicity.

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