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Int J Biol Sci 2018; 14(3):294-305. doi:10.7150/ijbs.23898

Research Paper

Mycotoxin zearalenone exposure impairs genomic stability of swine follicular granulosa cells in vitro

Xue-Lian Liu 1, Rui-Ying Wu2, Xiao-Feng Sun 3, Shun-Feng Cheng 1,3, Rui-Qian Zhang 1, Tian-Yu Zhang 1, Xi-Feng Zhang 4, Yong Zhao 1,3, Wei Shen1,2,3, Lan Li 1,3✉

1. College of Animal Science and Technology, Qingdao Agricultural University, Qingdao 266109, China;
2. Center for Reproductive Medicine, Qingdao Women's and Children's Hospital, Qingdao University, Qingdao 266034, China;
3. College of Life Sciences, Institute of Reproductive Sciences, Qingdao Agricultural University, Qingdao 266109, China;
4. College of Biological and Pharmaceutical Engineering, Wuhan Polytechnic University, Wuhan 430023, China


Zearalenone (ZEA), a metabolite of Fusarium fungi, is commonly found on moldy grains. Because it can competitively combine to estrogen receptor to disrupt estrogenic signaling, it has been reported to have serious adverse effects on animal reproduction systems. In order to explore the genotoxic effects of ZEA exposure on ovarian somatic cells, porcine granulosa cells were exposed to 10 μM and 30 μM ZEA for 24 or 72 h in vitro. The results showed that ZEA exposure for 24 h remarkably reduced the proliferation of porcine granulosa cells in a dose-dependent manner as determined by MTT analysis and flow cytometry. Furthermore, exposure to ZEA for 72 h induced apoptosis, and RNA sequence analysis also revealed that the expression of apoptosis related genes were altered. RT-qPCR, immunofluorescence and western blot analysis further confirmed the expression of DNA damage and repair related genes (γ-H2AX, BRCA1, RAD51 and PRKDC) were increased in ZEA exposed granulosa cells. When the estrogen antagonist, tamoxifen, was added with ZEA in the culture medium, the DNA damage and repairment by ZEA returned to normal level. Collectively, these results illustrate that ZEA disrupts genome stability and inhibits growth of porcine granulosa cells via the estrogen receptors which may promote granulosa cell apoptosis when the DNA repair system is not enough to rescue this serious damage.

Keywords: Zearalenone, Granulosa cells, Genomic stability, DNA damage

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
How to cite this article:
Liu XL, Wu RY, Sun XF, Cheng SF, Zhang RQ, Zhang TY, Zhang XF, Zhao Y, Shen W, Li L. Mycotoxin zearalenone exposure impairs genomic stability of swine follicular granulosa cells in vitro. Int J Biol Sci 2018; 14(3):294-305. doi:10.7150/ijbs.23898. Available from