The 12,13-epoxytrichothecenes, a group of sesquiterpenoid fungal antibiotics, inhibit protein synthesis in eukaryotic cells but do not share a common mode of action. Trichodermin stabilizes polyribosomes, prevents their disaggregation by puromycin, and also prevents the release of nascent peptides from ribosomes by puromycin. Nivalenol, T-2 toxin, and verrucarin A cause rapid and almost quantitative breakdown of polyribosomes in H-HeLa cells, a process which is inhibited by anisomycin, cycloheximide, or trichodermin. Similar effects of trichodermin, nivalenol, and verrucarin A are also observed in yeast spheroplasts. We conclude that nivalenol, T-2 toxin, and verrucarin A are potent and highly selective inhibitors of polypeptide chain initiation in eukaryotes, whereas trichodermin inhibits chain elongation and (or) termination. We have compared the structural formulae of various trichothecenes and suggest that the presence of substituents on carbon-15 of the common trichothecene ring may be important in determining the precise modes of action of this group of compounds.
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