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Mar. Drugs 2007, 5(4), 180-196; doi:10.3390/md504180
Article

Production of the Neurotoxin BMAA by a Marine Cyanobacterium

1
, 1
, 1
 and 1,*
1 Institute for Ethnomedicine, Box 3464, Jackson Hole, Wyoming 83001, USA 2 Department of Biological Science, California State University, Fullerton, California 92834, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 17 November 2007 / Accepted: 4 December 2007 / Published: 6 December 2007
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Marine Toxins)
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Abstract

Diverse species of cyanobacteria have recently been discovered to produce theneurotoxic non-protein amino acid β-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA). In Guam, BMAAhas been studied as a possible environmental toxin in the diets of indigenous Chamorropeople known to have high levels of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis/ ParkinsonismDementia Complex (ALS/PDC). BMAA has been found to accumulate in brain tissues ofpatients with progressive neurodegenerative illness in North America. In Guam, BMAAwas found to be produced by endosymbiotic cyanobacteria of the genus Nostoc which livein specialized cycad roots. We here report detection of BMAA in laboratory cultures of afree-living marine species of Nostoc. We successfully detected BMAA in this marinespecies of Nostoc with five different methods: HPLC-FD, UPLC-UV, Amino AcidAnalyzer, LC/MS, and Triple Quadrupole LC/MS/MS. This consensus of five differentanalytical methods unequivocally demonstrates the presence of BMAA in this marinecyanobacterium. Since protein-associated BMAA can accumulate in increasing levelswithin food chains, it is possible that biomagnification of BMAA could occur in marineecosystems similar to the biomagnification of BMAA in terrestrial ecosystems. Productionof BMAA by marine cyanobacteria may represent another route of human exposure toBMAA. Since BMAA at low concentrations causes the death of motor neurons, low levelsof BMAA exposure may trigger motor neuron disease in genetically vulnerableindividuals.
Keywords: Nostoc; motor neuron disease; ALS/PDC; LC/MS/MS; biomagnification Nostoc; motor neuron disease; ALS/PDC; LC/MS/MS; biomagnification
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Banack, S.A.; Johnson, H.E.; Cheng, R.; Cox, P.A. Production of the Neurotoxin BMAA by a Marine Cyanobacterium. Mar. Drugs 2007, 5, 180-196.

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