The harmful effects of mycotoxins on intestinal health have received worldwide attention.
Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by filamentous fungi, and include aflatoxins,
ochratoxins, patulin, fumonisins, zearalenone, trichothecenes, and ergot alkaloids. Insuring the absence
or low levels of mycotoxins is critical for food and feed safety. Currently, the studies in this
field have illuminated the adverse effects of mycotoxins on gut health including intestinal integrity
and the gut-associated immune system. By affecting the proteins and peptides that serve vital functions
in the immune system and host metabolism, mycotoxins are able to attack intestinal epithelium,
which leads to poor intestinal health and integrity. This review focuses on the effects of exposure to
mycotoxins on the intestinal barrier, especially the gut microbiome, intestinal local immune system,
and tight junction proteins, which in return influence digestion, absorption, metabolism and transport
of the nutrients in intestinal lumen. The crucial role of mycotoxins on microbial metabolism and
antimicrobial properties is also assessed, which elucidates the relationship between exposure to mycotoxins
and the intestinal microbiome. We hypothesize that the key small peptides and proteins
regulate the causal relationship between mycotoxins and gut microbiome.