Endocrine, teratogenic and neurotoxic effects of cyanobacteria detected by cellular in vitro and zebrafish embryos assays


Cyanobacteria contain various types of bioactive compounds, which could cause adverse effects on organisms. They are released into surface waters during cyanobacterial blooms, but there is little information on their potential relevance for effects in vivo. In this study presence of bioactive compounds was characterized in cyanobacteria Microcystis aeruginosa (Chroococcales), Planktothrix agardhii (Oscillatoriales) and Aphanizomenon gracile (Nostocales) with selected in vitro assays. The in vivo relevance of detected bioactivities was analysed using transgenic zebrafish embryos tg(cyp19a1b-GFP). Teratogenic potency was assessed by analysis of developmental disorders and effects on functions of the neuromuscular system by video tracking of locomotion. Estrogenicity in vitro corresponded to 0.95–54.6 ng estradiol equivalent (g dry weight (dw))−1. In zebrafish embryos, estrogenic effects could not be detected potentially because they were masked by high toxicity. There was no detectable (anti)androgenic/glucocorticoid activity in any sample. Retinoid-like activity was determined at 1–1.3 μg all-trans-retinoic acid equivalent (g dw)−1. Corresponding to the retinoid-like activity A. gracile extract also caused teratogenic effects in zebrafish embryos. Furthermore, exposure to biomass extracts at 0.3 g dw L−1 caused increase of body length in embryos. There were minor effects on locomotion caused by 0.3 g dw L−1 M. aeruginosa and P. agardhii extracts. The traditionally measured cyanotoxins microcystins did not seem to play significant role in observed effects. This indicates importance of other cyanobacterial compounds at least towards some species or their developmental phases. More attention should be paid to activity of retinoids, estrogens and other bioactive substances in phytoplankton using in vitro and in vivo bioassays.