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Mar Drugs. 2008 Jun 11;6(2):349-71. doi: 10.3390/md20080016.

Neurotoxins from marine dinoflagellates: a brief review.

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State Key Lab of Marine Environmental Science/Environmental Science Research Center, Xiamen University, Xiamen 361005, P.R. China.


Dinoflagellates are not only important marine primary producers and grazers, but also the major causative agents of harmful algal blooms. It has been reported that many dinoflagellate species can produce various natural toxins. These toxins can be extremely toxic and many of them are effective at far lower dosages than conventional chemical agents. Consumption of seafood contaminated by algal toxins results in various seafood poisoning syndromes: paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP), amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP), diarrheic shellfish poisoning (DSP), ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) and azaspiracid shellfish poisoning (ASP). Most of these poisonings are caused by neurotoxins which present themselves with highly specific effects on the nervous system of animals, including humans, by interfering with nerve impulse transmission. Neurotoxins are a varied group of compounds, both chemically and pharmacologically. They vary in both chemical structure and mechanism of action, and produce very distinct biological effects, which provides a potential application of these toxins in pharmacology and toxicology. This review summarizes the origin, structure and clinical symptoms of PSP, NSP, CFP, AZP, yessotoxin and palytoxin produced by marine dinoflagellates, as well as their molecular mechanisms of action on voltage-gated ion channels.


Dinoflagellates; azaspiracid poisoning; ciguatera fish poisoning; molecular action mechanism; neurotoxic shellfish poisoning; neurotoxins; palytoxin; paralytic shellfish poisoning; voltage-gated ion channels; yessotoxin

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