The phytotoxicity and mammalian cytotoxicity of four nontrichothecene mycotoxins (apicidin, sambutoxin, wortmannin, HC-toxin) were compared. Phytotoxicity was evaluated in terms of electrolyte leakage, growth inhibition, and reduction in chlorophyll content. Based on the parameters evaluated, the relative order of phytotoxicity to duckweed (Lemna pausicostata L.) was wortmannin > HC-toxin > apicidin >> sambutoxin. A 48-hr exposure to 10 microM wortmannin, HC-toxin or apicidin caused electrolyte leakage from duckweed. The IC50 values for growth inhibition and chlorophyll reduction for wortmannin, HC-toxin, and apicidin were 0.2 and 2.6 microM, 15.4 and 12.6 microM, and 27.7 and 45.3 microM, respectively. Based on the parameters measured, a 72-hr exposure to 100 microM sambutoxin was not toxic to duckweed. Kudzu (Pueraria lobata L.) leaf disc assays revealed a similar trend in relative toxicities, but higher mycotoxin concentrations were required to elicit phytotoxic effects compared to duckweed. All four mycotoxins were cytotoxic to four mammalian cell cultures. However, in contrast to plants, wortmannin was the least toxic (IC50 = 10 to 20 microM) and sambutoxin exhibited a high level of toxicity (IC50 = 0.5 to 1 microM).