Sci Rep. 2016 Sep 14;6:33221.
Aflatoxins are mycotoxins secreted by Aspergillus flavus, which can colonize the respiratory tract and cause fungal rhinosinusitis or bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. A. flavus is the second leading cause of invasive aspergillosis worldwide. Because many respiratorypathogens secrete toxins to impair mucociliary immunity, we examined the effects of acute exposure to aflatoxins on airway cell physiology. Using air-liquid interface cultures of primary human sinonasal and bronchial cells, we imaged ciliary beat frequency (CBF), intracellular calcium, and nitric oxide (NO). Exposure to aflatoxins (0.1 to 10 μM; 5 to 10 minutes) reduced baseline (~6-12%) and agonist-stimulated CBF. Conditioned media (CM) from A. fumigatus, A. niger, and A. flavus cultures also reduced CBF by ~10% after 60 min exposure, but effects were blocked by an anti-aflatoxin antibody only with A. flavus CM. CBF reduction required protein kinase C but was not associated with changes in calcium or NO. However, AFB2 reduced NO production by ~50% during stimulation of the ciliary-localized T2R38 receptor. Using a fluorescent reporter construct expressed in A549 cells, we directly observed activation of PKC activity by AFB2. Aflatoxins secreted by respiratory A. flavus may impair motile and chemosensory functions of airway cilia, contributing to pathogenesis of fungal airway diseases.