Main content area

Cyanobacterial peptides beyond microcystins – A review on co-occurrence, toxicity, and challenges for risk assessment

Janssen, Elisabeth M.-L.
Water research 2019 v.151 pp. 488-499
Cyanobacteria, enzyme inhibition, humans, metabolites, microcystins, natural toxicants, proteinases, reference standards, risk, risk assessment, risk management process, surface water, toxicity, water quality
Cyanobacterial bloom events that produce natural toxins occur in freshwaters across the globe, yet the potential risk of many cyanobacterial metabolites remains mostly unknown. Only microcystins, one class of cyanopeptides, have been studied intensively and the wealth of evidence regarding exposure concentrations and toxicity led to their inclusion in risk management frameworks for water quality. However, cyanobacteria produce an incredible diversity of hundreds of cyanopeptides beyond the class of microcystins. The question arises, whether the other cyanopeptides are in fact of no human and ecological concern or whether these compounds merely received (too) little attention thus far. Current observations suggest that an assessment of their (eco)toxicological risk is indeed relevant: First, other cyanopeptides, including cyanopeptolins and anabaenopeptins, can occur just as frequently and at similar nanomolar concentrations as microcystins in surface waters. Second, cyanopeptolins, anabaenopeptins, aeruginosins and microginins inhibit proteases in the nanomolar range, in contrast to protein phosphatase inhibition by microcystins. Cyanopeptolins, aeruginosins, and aerucyclamide also show toxicity against grazers in the micromolar range comparable to microcystins. The key challenge for a comprehensive risk assessment of cyanopeptides remains their large structural diversity, lack of reference standards, and high analytical requirements for identification and quantification. One way forward would be a prevalence study to identify the priority candidates of tentatively abundant, persistent, and toxic cyanopeptides to make comprehensive risk assessments more manageable.