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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 16, 2022
  2. Ciguatera poisoning (CP) poses a significant threat to ecosystem services and fishery resources in coastal communities. The CP-causative ciguatoxins (CTXs) are produced by benthic dinoflagellates including Gambierdiscus and Fukuyoa spp., and enter reef food webs via grazing on macroalgal substrates. In this study, we report on a 3-year monthly time series in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands where Gambierdiscus spp. abundance and Caribbean-CTX toxicity in benthic samples were compared to key environmental factors, including temperature, salinity, nutrients, benthic cover, and physical data. We found that peak Gambierdiscus abundance occurred in summer while CTX-specific toxicity peaked in cooler months (February–May) whenmore »the mean water temperatures were approximately 26–28 °C. These trends were most evident at deeper offshore sites where macroalgal cover was highest year-round. Other environmental parameters were not correlated with the CTX variability observed over time. The asynchrony between Gambierdiscus spp. abundance and toxicity reflects potential differences in toxin cell quotas among Gambierdiscus species with concomitant variability in their abundances throughout the year. These results have significant implications for monitoring and management of benthic harmful algal blooms and highlights potential seasonal and highly-localized pulses in reef toxin loads that may be transferred to higher trophic levels.« less
  3. Ciguatera poisoning is linked to the ingestion of seafood that is contaminated with ciguatoxins (CTXs). The structural variability of these polyether toxins in nature remains poorly understood due to the low concentrations present even in highly toxic fish, which makes isolation and chemical characterization difficult. We studied the mass spectrometric fragmentation of Caribbean CTXs, i.e., the epimers C-CTX-1 and -2 (1 and 2), using a sensitive UHPLC–HRMS/MS approach in order to identify product ions of diagnostic value. We found that the fragmentation of the ladder-frame backbone follows a characteristic pattern and propose a generalized nomenclature for the ions formed. Thesemore »data were applied to the structural characterization of a pair of so far poorly characterized isomers, C-CTX-3 and -4 (3 and 4), which we found to be reduced at C-56 relative to 1 and 2. Furthermore, we tested and applied reduction and oxidation reactions, monitored by LC–HRMS, in order to confirm the structures of 3 and 4. Reduction of 1 and 2 with NaBH4 afforded 3 and 4, thereby unambiguously confirming the identities of 3 and 4. In summary, this work provides a foundation for mass spectrometry-based characterization of new C-CTXs, including a suite of simple chemical reactions to assist the examination of structural modifications.« less
  4. Spherical cells were detected in low salinity waters during a bloom of Karenia brevis in Alabama coastal waters. These balls resembled K. brevis in size and organelle appearance, contained similar concentration of brevetoxin, and occurred during ongoing K. brevis bloom. Based on the environmental conditions in which these cells were observed, we speculate that a rapid drop in salinity triggered the sphere formation in K. brevis. Brevetoxin concentrations were comparable between surface water samples containing typical and atypical cells ranging from 1 to 10 ng/mL brevetoxin-3 equivalents. Accurate identification and quantification of cell abundance in the water column is essentialmore »for routine monitoring of coastal waters, so misidentification of these spherical cells may result in significant underestimation of cell densities, and consequently, brevetoxin level. These potential discrepancies may negatively impact the quality of regulatory decisions and their impact on shellfish harvest area closures. We demonstrate that traditional monitoring based on microscopy alone is not sufficient for brevetoxin detection, and supporting toxin data is necessary to evaluate potential risk.« less
  5. Domoic acid (DA)-producing harmful algal blooms (HABs) have been present at unprecedented geographic extent and duration in recent years causing an increase in contamination of seafood by this common environmental neurotoxin. The toxin is responsible for the neurotoxic illness, amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP), that is characterized by gastro-intestinal distress, seizures, memory loss, and death. Established seafood safety regulatory limits of 20 μg DA/g shellfish have been relatively successful at protecting human seafood consumers from short-term high-level exposures and episodes of acute ASP. Significant concerns, however, remain regarding the potential impact of repetitive low-level or chronic DA exposure for which theremore »are no protections. Here, we report the novel discovery of a DA-specific antibody in the serum of chronically-exposed tribal shellfish harvesters from a region where DA is commonly detected at low levels in razor clams year-round. The toxin was also detected in tribal shellfish consumers’ urine samples confirming systemic DA exposure via consumption of legally-harvested razor clams. The presence of a DA-specific antibody in the serum of human shellfish consumers confirms long-term chronic DA exposure and may be useful as a diagnostic biomarker in a clinical setting. Adverse effects of chronic low-level DA exposure have been previously documented in laboratory animal studies and tribal razor clam consumers, underscoring the potential clinical impact of such a diagnostic biomarker for protecting human health. The discovery of this type of antibody response to chronic DA exposure has broader implications for other environmental neurotoxins of concern.« less