Elimination of damaged mitochondria through mitophagy reduces mitochondrial oxidative stress and increases tolerance to trichothecenes

Mohamed Anwar Bin-Umer, John E. McLaughlin, Matthew S. Butterly, Susan McCormick, Nilgun E. Tumer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Trichothecene mycotoxins are natural contaminants of small grain cereals and are encountered in the environment, posing a worldwide threat to human and animal health. Their mechanism of toxicity is poorly understood, and little is known about cellular protection mechanisms against trichothecenes. We previously identified inhibition of mitochondrial protein synthesis as a novel mechanism for trichothecene-induced cell death. To identify cellular functions involved in trichothecene resistance, we screened the Saccharomyces cerevisiae deletion library for increased sensitivity to nonlethal concentrations of trichothecin (Tcin) and identified 121 strains exhibiting higher sensitivity than the parental strain. The largest group of sensitive strains had significantly higher reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels relative to the parental strain. A dose-dependent increase in ROS levels was observed in the parental strain treated with different trichothecenes, but not in a petite version of the parental strain or in the presence of a mitochondrial membrane uncoupler, indicating that mitochondria are the main site of ROS production due to toxin exposure. Cytotoxicity of trichothecenes was alleviated after treatment of the parental strain and highly sensitive mutants with antioxidants, suggesting that oxidative stress contributes to trichothecene sensitivity. Cotreatment with rapamycin and trichothecenes reduced ROS levels and cytotoxicity in the parental strain relative to the trichothecene treatment alone, but not in mitophagy deficient mutants, suggesting that elimination of trichothecene-damaged mitochondria by mitophagy improves cell survival. These results reveal that increased mitophagy is a cellular protection mechanism against trichothecene-induced mitochondrial oxidative stress and a potential target for trichothecene resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11798-11803
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 12 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Deoxynivalenol
  • Fusarium graminearum
  • Fusarium head blight


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