Cyanotoxins within and Outside of Microcystis aeruginosa Cause Adverse Effects in Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

René S. Shahmohamadloo, Xavier Ortiz Almirall, Denina B.D. Simmons, John S. Lumsden, Satyendra P. Bhavsar, Trudy Watson-Leung, Angela Vander Eyken, Gabrielle Hankins, Kate Hubbs, Polina Konopelko, Michael Sarnacki, Damon Strong, Paul K. Sibley

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The global expansion of toxic Microcystis blooms, and production of cyanotoxins including microcystins, are an increasing risk to freshwater fish. Differentiating intracellular and extracellular microcystin toxicity pathways (i.e., within and outside of cyanobacterial cells) in fish is necessary to assess the severity of risks to populations that encounter harmful algal blooms in pre-to-postsenescent stages. To address this, adult and juvenile Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were, respectively, exposed for 96 h to intracellular and extracellular microcystins (0, 20, and 100 μg L-1) produced by Microcystis aeruginosa. Fish were dissected at 24 h intervals for histopathology, targeted microcystin quantification, and nontargeted proteomics. Rainbow Trout accumulated intracellular and extracellular microcystins in all tissues within 24 h, with greater accumulation in the extracellular state. Proteomics revealed intracellular and extracellular microcystins caused sublethal toxicity by significantly dysregulating proteins linked to the cytoskeletal structure, stress responses, and DNA repair in all tissues. Pyruvate metabolism in livers, anion binding in kidneys, and myopathy in muscles were also significantly impacted. Histopathology corroborated these findings with evidence of necrosis, apoptosis, and hemorrhage at similar severity in both microcystin treatments. We demonstrate that sublethal concentrations of intracellular and extracellular microcystins cause adverse effects in Rainbow Trout after short-term exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10422-10431
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • algal bloom
  • cyanobacteria
  • fish
  • histopathology
  • microcystin
  • proteomics
  • toxicology


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