Maitotoxins (MTXs) are among the most potent toxins known. These toxins are produced by epi-benthic dinoflagellates of the genera Gambierdiscus
and may play a role in causing the symptoms associated with Ciguatera Fish Poisoning. A recent survey revealed that, of the species tested, the newly described species from the Canary Islands, G. excentricus
, is one of the most maitotoxic. The goal of the present study was to characterize MTX-related compounds produced by this species. Initially, lysates of cells from two Canary Island G. excentricus
strains VGO791 and VGO792 were partially purified by (i) liquid-liquid partitioning between dichloromethane and aqueous methanol followed by (ii) size-exclusion chromatography. Fractions from chromatographic separation were screened for MTX toxicity using both the neuroblastoma neuro-2a (N2a) cytotoxicity and Ca2+
flux functional assays. Fractions containing MTX activity were analyzed using liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS) to pinpoint potential MTX analogs.
Subsequent non-targeted HRMS analysis permitted the identification of a novel MTX analog, maitotoxin-4 (MTX4, accurate mono-isotopic mass of 3292.4860 Da, as free acid form) in the most toxic fractions. HRMS/MS spectra of MTX4 as well as of MTX are presented. In addition, crude methanolic extracts of five other strains of G. excentricus
and 37 other strains representing one Fukuyoa
species and ten species, one ribotype and one undetermined strain/species of Gambierdiscus
were screened for the presence of MTXs using low resolution tandem mass spectrometry (LRMS/MS). This targeted analysis indicated the original maitotoxin (MTX) was only present in one strain (G. australes
S080911_1). Putative maitotoxin-2 (p-MTX2) and maitotoxin-3 (p-MTX3) were identified in several other species, but confirmation was not possible because of the lack of reference material. Maitotoxin-4 was detected in all seven strains of G. excentricus
examined, independently of their origin (Brazil, Canary Islands and Caribbean), and not detected in any other species. MTX4 may therefore serve as a biomarker for the highly toxic G. excentricus
in the Atlantic area.