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Pharmaceutical potential of black sea toxic microalgae

Zlatina Peteva, Desislava Boianova


Introduction: Microalgae are a diverse group of autotrophic organisms that have the ability to grow rapidly. In a global scale approximately 80 species are proven to have the capacity to produce potent toxins (phycotoxins) which tend to accumulate in other organisms in the food chain and could af­fect the human health. The negative function of yessotoxin (YTX) on the human health is debatable but it is supposed to be a helpful drug for pharmacological approaches. A total number of 28 poten­tially toxin species have been observed along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Among them are Proto­ceratium reticulatum, Gonyaulax spinifera and Lingulodium polyedrum which are known to pro­duce YTX. The aims of this study are to reveal that Black Sea phytoplankton has the potential to be a source of YTX, to suggest conditions that increase this potential and to review the pharmaceutical purposes YTX can be used for.

Materials and methods: Plankton sampling is conducted in autumn 2016 and spring 2017 on the Bul­garian Black Sea coast. YTX determination is performed with liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry.

Results: 20 plankton samples were analysed whereas 12 were positive for YTX. YTX concentration varies 20-20000 pg/NH/m. Parameters as salinity of about 32 ‰, average water temperature of about 15,5 °C, phosphate concentration of around 0,46 μM and very low nitrogen concentration are report­ed to enhance the toxic phytoplankton proliferation and YTX production both in laboratory and nat­ural conditions. YTX is proposed as a lead molecule to treat and/or prevent metabolic diseases, for therapy of Alzheimer’s disease, allergy processes etc.

Conclusions: Phytoplankton from the Bulgarian Black Sea coast produces YTX. Isolation and cultur­ing of Black Sea species by appropriate conditions could facilitate YTX production. This could be a natural source of YTX and used for pharmaceutical purposes.


yessotoxin; phytoplankton; Black Sea; pharmaceutical use



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