Human and rat hepatocyte toxicity and protein phosphatase 1 and 2A inhibitory activity of naturally occurring desmethyl-microcystins and nodularins.

PMID 22230684


Contamination of water, foods and food supplements by various genera of cyanobacteria is a serious health problem worldwide for humans and animals, largely due to the toxic effects of microcystins (MCs) and nodularin (NOD), a group of hepatotoxic cyclic peptides. The toxins occur in variable structures resulting in more than 90 different MCs and 8 different NODs, many of them not having been investigated for their toxic potency. Potent MCs such as MC-LR have been shown to elicit their hepatotoxic potency via inhibition of hepatic protein phosphatases (PP) 1 and 2A leading to over-phosphorylation of vital cellular proteins. This mechanism of action is also thought to be responsible for the long term tumor promoting action of certain MCs and NOD in the liver. Here, we report on the isolation of certain MCs and NOD as well as a number of their desmethylated derivatives from algae bloom. Subsequently, we determined the cytotoxicity of these compounds in isolated primary human and rat hepatocytes in culture. In parallel experiments, we analyzed the inhibitory potency of these congeners on PP1 and 2A using commercially available enzymes. We found in primary rat hepatocytes that MC-LR, -YR and NOD were cytotoxic, namely in the 10 to >50 nM range, while MC-RR was not. The desmethylated congeners of MC-LR, -YR, and NOD were equally or more-toxic as/than their fully methylated counterparts. In primary human hepatocytes we could show that MC-LR, NOD and the desmethylated variants [³Asp]MC-LR, [⁷Dha]MC-LR and [¹Asp]NOD were cytotoxic in the 20 to >600 nM range. Inhibition data with human, bovine and rabbit protein phosphatases 1 and 2A were roughly in accordance with the cytotoxicity findings in human and rat hepatocytes, i.e. desmethylation had no pronounced effects on the inhibitory potencies. Thus, a variety of naturally occurring desmethylated MC and NOD congeners have to be considered as being at least as toxic as the corresponding fully methylated derivatives.

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Nodularin solution, 10 μg/mL in methanol, analytical standard