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Aquat Toxicol. 2010 Sep 1;99(3):351-9. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2010.05.014. Epub 2010 May 24.

Neurochemical alterations in lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) brains in association with brevetoxin exposure.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Brevetoxins are persistent, bioaccumulative, lipophilic polyether neurotoxins synthesized by Karenia brevis, a harmful algal bloom (HAB) dinoflagellate. Although some marine organisms accumulate potentially harmful levels of brevetoxins, little is known about neurotoxic effects in wild populations. Here, tissue (i.e., liver, kidney, muscle, intestine, gill, brain) brevetoxin levels (as ng PbTx-3 eq/g) and four neurochemical biomarkers (monoamine oxidase, MAO; cholinesterase, ChE; muscarinic cholinergic receptor, mAChR; N-methyl-d-aspartic acid receptor, NMDAR) were compared between eleven lemon sharks collected during a K. brevis bloom and eighteen lemon sharks not exposed to a bloom (controls) in a case-control manner. Brevetoxin levels in tissues were significantly higher in HAB-exposed sharks when compared to controls, and tissue levels (e.g., 277-3112 ng/g in livers, 429-2833 ng/g in gills) in HAB-exposed sharks were comparable to levels detected in a shark (e.g., 1223 ng/g in liver, 930 ng/g in gill) that died presumably of toxin exposure. Further, there were significant correlations between brain brevetoxin levels and ChE activity (r=-0.41; p<0.05), MAO activity (r=-0.37; p<0.05), mAChR levels (r=0.55; p<0.01), and NMDAR levels (r=-0.49; p<0.01). There were no relationships between neurochemical biomarkers and metals (total mercury, methylmercury, selenium). Overall, these results in tissues from free-ranging lemon sharks indicate that ecologically relevant exposures to brevetoxins may cause significant changes in brain neurochemistry. As disruptions to neurochemistry precede structural and functional damage to the nervous system, these results suggest that relevant exposures to HABs may be causing sub-clinical effects in lemon sharks and raise further questions about the ecological and physiological impacts of HABs on marine biota.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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