Main content area

Morphology, toxicity and molecular characterization of Gambierdiscus spp. towards risk assessment of ciguatera in south central Cuba

Díaz-Asencio, Lisbet, Vandersea, Mark, Chomérat, Nicolas, Fraga, Santiago, Clausing, Rachel J., Litaker, R.Wayne, Chamero-Lago, Donaida, Gómez-Batista, Miguel, Moreira-González, Angel, Tester, Patricia, Alonso-Hernández, Carlos, Dechraoui Bottein, Marie-Yasmine
Harmful algae 2019 v.86 pp. 119-127
Dictyotaceae, Gambierdiscus, Prorocentrum, aquatic food webs, ciguatera, ciguatoxin, coasts, fish, macrophytes, marine ecosystems, neurotoxins, poisonous algae, polymerase chain reaction, risk, risk management, scanning electron microscopy, shellfish, toxicity, Caribbean, Cuba
Ciguatera poisoning is caused by the consumption of reef fish or shellfish that have accumulated ciguatoxins, neurotoxins produced by benthic dinoflagellates of the genera Gambierdiscus or Fukuyoa. Although ciguatera constitutes the primary cause of seafood intoxication in Cuba, very little information is available on the occurrence of ciguatoxins in the marine food web and the causative benthic dinoflagellate species. This study conducted on the south-central coast of Cuba reports the occurrence of Gambierdiscus and Fukuyoa genera and the associated benthic genera Ostreopsis and Prorocentrum. Gambierdiscus/Fukuyoa cells were present at low to moderate abundances depending on the site and month of sampling. This genus was notably higher on Dictyotaceae than on other macrophytes. PCR analysis of field-collected samples revealed the presence of six different Gambierdiscus and one Fukuyoa species, including G. caribaeus, G. carolinianus, G. carpenteri, G. belizeanus, F. ruetzleri, G. silvae, and Gambierdiscus sp. ribotype 2. Only Gambierdiscus excentricus was absent from the eight Gambierdiscus/Fukuyoa species known in the wider Caribbean region. Eleven clonal cultures were established and confirmed by PCR and SEM as being either G. carolinianus or G. caribaeus. Toxin production in each isolate was assessed by a radioligand receptor binding assay and found to be below the assay quantification limit. These novel findings augment the knowledge of the ciguatoxin-source dinoflagellates that are present in Cuba, however further studies are needed to better understand the correlation between their abundance, species-specific toxin production in the environment, and the risk for fish contamination, in order to develop better informed ciguatera risk management strategies.