Mycotoxins are toxic secondary fungal metabolites that commonly contaminate crops and food by-products and thus, animal feed. Ingestion of mycotoxins can lead to mycotoxicosis in both animals and humans, and at subclinical concentrations may affect animal production and adulterate feed and animal by-products. Mycotoxicity mechanisms of action (MOA) are largely unknown, and co-contamination, which is often the case, raises the likelihood of mycotoxin interactions. Mitigation strategies for reducing the risk of mycotoxicity are diverse and may not necessarily provide protection against all mycotoxins. These factors, as well as the species-specific risk of toxicity, collectively make an assessment of exposure, toxicity, and risk mitigation very challenging and costly; thus, in-vitro cell culture models provide a useful tool for their initial assessment. Since ingestion is the most common route of mycotoxin exposure, the intestinal epithelial barrier comprised of epithelial cells (IECs) and immune cells such as macrophages, represents ground zero where mycotoxins are absorbed, biotransformed, and elicit toxicity. This article aims to review different in-vitro IEC or co-culture models that can be used for assessing mycotoxin exposure, toxicity, and risk mitigation, and their suitability and limitations for the safety assessment of animal foods and food by-products.
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