• Apoptosis;
  • Chemotaxis;
  • Deoxynivalenol;
  • Phagocytosis;
  • Pig neutrophils


Deoxynivalenol (DON), a mycotoxin produced by Fusarium spp., is toxic to many animal species, with pigs being the most sensitive species to the toxin. The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of DON on pig polymorphonuclear cells (PMNs), the first line of defense against infection.

Methods and results

PMNs isolated from pig blood samples were stimulated with LPS to mimic infection. DON (0.5–10 μM) altered three main functions of pig PMNs: LPS-induced secretion of IL-8, chemotaxis, and phagocytosis capability. This alteration of PMN properties was due to apoptotis induced by DON exposure. Using Western blot and flow cytometry, we demonstrated that this process included the permeabilization of the mitochondrial outer membrane and the activation of caspase-3. The effect of DON was mediated by the phosphorylation of the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase within the first 30 min of exposure.


This study provides evidence that low concentrations of DON can alter the immune functions of porcine PMNs and suggests the involvement of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase in the signal transduction pathway. These immunosuppressive effects of DON may have implications for humans and/or animals when eating contaminated food/feed.