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Toxicon. 2010 Jun 15;55(7):1396-404. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2010.02.017. Epub 2010 Feb 23.

Reassessing the ichthyotoxin profile of cultured Prymnesium parvum (golden algae) and comparing it to samples collected from recent freshwater bloom and fish kill events in North America.

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Natural Products Discovery Group, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, 620 Parrington Oval, Room 208, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019, USA.


Within the last two decades, Prymnesium parvum (golden algae) has rapidly spread into inland waterways across the southern portion of North America and this organism has now appeared in more northerly distributed watersheds. In its wake, golden algae blooms have left an alarming trail of ecological devastation, namely massive fish kills, which are threatening the economic and recreational value of freshwater systems throughout the United States. To further understand the nature of this emerging crisis, our group investigated the chemical nature of the toxin(s) produced by P. parvum. We approached the problem using a two-pronged strategy that included analyzing both laboratory-grown golden algae and field-collected samples of P. parvum. Our results demonstrate that there is a striking difference in the toxin profiles for these two systems. An assemblage of potently ichthyotoxic fatty acids consisting primarily of stearidonic acid was identified in P. parvum cultures. While the concentration of the fatty acids alone was sufficient to account for the rapid-onset ichthyotoxic properties of cultured P. parvum, we also detected a second type of highly labile ichthyotoxic substance(s) in laboratory-grown golden algae that remains uncharacterized. In contrast, the amounts of stearidonic acid and its related congeners present in samples from recent bloom and fish kill sites fell well below the limits necessary to induce acute toxicity in fish. However, a highly labile ichthyotoxic substance, which is similar to the one found in laboratory-grown P. parvum cultures, was also detected. We propose that the uncharacterized labile metabolite produced by P. parvum is responsible for golden algae's devastating fish killing effects. Moreover, we have determined that the biologically-relevant ichthyotoxins produced by P. parvum are not the prymnesins as is widely believed. Our results suggest that further intensive efforts will be required to chemically define P. parvum's ichthyotoxins under natural bloom conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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