Cytotoxic effects of aflatoxin B1 on human brain microvascular endothelial cells of the blood-brain barrier

Humaira Qureshi, Saeed S. Hamid, Syed Shayan Ali, Javeria Anwar, Anwar Ali Siddiqui, Naveed Ahmed Khan

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58 Citations (Scopus)


Aflatoxins are mycotoxins produced by Aspergillus spp. Although AFB1 is implicated as a carcinogen in hepatocellular carcinoma, brain autopsies in affected areas have revealed its presence in 81% of cases. Given its haematogenous spread, here we determined the cytotoxic effects of AFB1 on primary human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMEC), which constitute the blood-brain barrier, human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) as well as immortalized epithelial cells of human hepatocellular carcinoma (Huh7). The cell types were exposed to AFB1 (3-32 nM) for 24 h and release of lactate dehydrogenase was measured as cell cytotoxicity marker. Furthermore, DNA was collected from both cell types and DNA adduct formation was determined by immunoblot using anti-AFB1-DNA adduct antibody. At 32 nM, AFB1 killed >85% HBMEC, while controls showed minimal effects (P <. 05). Similar concentrations of AFB1 showed 22% cell death of HUVEC, while the same concentration did not kill Huh7. At low concentrations, in other words, 3.2 nM, AFB1 produced DNA adduct formation in HBMEC, while high concentration (32 nM) did not form DNA adducts. For HUVEC, 16 nM and 32 nM exhibited DNA adduct formation. For Huh7, 3.2 nM did not form DNA adducts, while 32 nM exhibited DNA adduct formation. For the first time, we report that AFB1 affected the viability of primary endothelial cells but not immortalized Huh7 cells. Cytotoxicity of brain endothelial cells suggests extra-hepatic complications post-AFB1 exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-416
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Mycology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2015


  • Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1)
  • Aspergillus flavus
  • Huh7
  • blood-brain barrier
  • endothelial cells


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