With the growing diversity and complexity of diet, humans are at risk of simultaneous exposure to aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) and aflatoxin M1 (AFM1), which are well-known contaminants in dairy and other agricultural products worldwide. The intestine represents the first barrier against external contaminants; however, evidence about the combined effect of AFB1 and AFM1 on intestinal integrity is lacking. In vivo
, the serum biochemical parameters related to intestinal barrier function, ratio of villus height/crypt depth, and distribution pattern of claudin-1 and zonula occluden-1 were significantly affected in mice exposed to 0.3 mg/kg b.w. AFB1 and 3.0 mg/kg b.w. AFM1. In vitro
results on differentiated Caco-2 cells showed that individual and combined AFB1 (0.5 and 4 μg/mL) and AFM1 (0.5 and 4 μg/mL) decreased cell viability and trans-epithelial electrical resistance values as well as increased paracellular permeability of fluorescein isothiocyanate-dextran in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, AFM1 aggravated AFB1-induced compromised intestinal barrier, as demonstrated by the down-regulation of tight junction proteins and their redistribution, particularly internalization. Adding the inhibitor chlorpromazine illustrated that clathrin-mediated endocytosis partially contributed to the compromised intestinal integrity. Synergistic and additive effects were the predominant interactions, suggesting that these toxins are likely to have negative effects on human health.
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