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Measurement of Algal Toxins in the Environment

Environment: Water and Waste

  1. Luis M Botana,
  2. M. Carmen Louzao,
  3. Amparo Alfonso,
  4. Ana M Botana,
  5. Mercedes R Vieytes,
  6. Natalia Viñariño,
  7. Carmen Vale

Published Online: 15 SEP 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a9058

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Botana, L. M., Louzao, M. C., Alfonso, A., Botana, A. M., Vieytes, M. R., Viñariño, N. and Vale, C. 2009. Measurement of Algal Toxins in the Environment. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Lugo, Spain

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2009


Algal toxins are important from an analytical point of view because they need to be constantly scrutinized owing to the danger they pose to consumers when they concentrate in filter-feeding shellfish or in drinking water and fish. Their chemical diversity is very large, with each group having many analogs. Each group has different pharmacological activities, although not all the mechanisms of action are understood. The main marine toxin groups are as follows: saxitoxin and analogs, okadaic acid and dinophysistoxins, azaspiracids, yessotoxins, pectenotoxins, cyclic imines, domoic acid, ciguatoxins, brevetoxins, palytoxin, gambierol, and polycavernoside. The main cyanobacterial toxins considered are hepatotoxins such as microcystins, nodularin, and cylindrospermopsin. The research concerning marine toxins is underdeveloped owing to a historic scarcity of standards. This has delayed not only the progress in their pharmacology but also the development of methods for detection and measurement. In the current situation, the mouse bioassay is the most common method being used to measure them. New methods are rapidly emerging as future solutions: (i) functional and nonanalytical methods, which provide information on their toxicity and quantify the toxin group (cell assays, receptor assays, biosensor assays), (ii) biochemical methods that do not provide information on toxicity (antibody-based methods), and (iii) analytical methods, which identify the species in each toxin group, and can quantify those for which standards are available. The main drawback of these methods is the lack of toxicity equivalent factors, which allow the conversion of toxin amounts to toxic values of a reference toxin. None of these methods has been validated, and therefore much remains to be done in the field.


  • marine toxins;
  • detection;
  • okadaic;
  • saxitoxin;
  • food safety