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J Environ Monit. 2011 Jun;13(6):1831-40. doi: 10.1039/c0em00771d. Epub 2011 Apr 27.

Okadaic acid induces morphological changes, apoptosis and cell cycle alterations in different human cell types.

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Toxicology Unit, Psychobiology Department, University of A Coruña, Edificio de Servicios Centrales de Investigación, Campus Elviña s/n, 15071 A Coruña, Spain.


Okadaic acid (OA) is a marine toxin produced by dinoflagellate species which is frequently accumulated in molluscs usual in the human diet. The exact action mechanism of OA has not been described yet and the results of most reported studies are often conflicting. The aim of this work was to evaluate the OA effects on morphology, cell cycle and apoptosis induction by means of light microscopy and flow cytometry, in three different types of human cells (leukocytes, HepG2 cells and SHSY5Y cells). Cells were treated with a range of OA concentrations in the presence and absence of S9 fraction. OA induced morphological changes in all the cell types studied, and cell cycle disruption only in leukocytes and neuronal cells. SHSY5Y cells were the most sensitive to OA assault. Results obtained in the presence and absence of metabolic activation were similar, suggesting that OA acts both directly and indirectly. Furthermore, OA was found to increase the subG(1) region in the flow cytometry cell cycle analysis, suggesting induction of apoptosis. These results were confirmed by the employment of specific methodologies for studying apoptosis such as caspase 3 activation and annexin V staining. Increases in the apoptosis rate were obtained in all the cells treated in the absence of S9 fraction, accompanied by increases in caspase 3 activation, suggesting that apoptosis induced by OA is a caspase 3-dependent process. Nevertheless, in the presence of S9 fraction no apoptosis was detected, indicating a metabolic detoxifying activity, although necrosis was observed in neuroblastoma cells.

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