Diets containing Microcystis with considerable amounts of the cyanotoxin microcystin-LR (MC-LR) were fed to determine their impact on the physiological performance of the omnivorous Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) with regard to stress and growth performance. Four different diets were prepared based on a commercial diet (control, MC-5% [containing 5% dried Microcystis biomass], MC-20% [containing 20% dried Microcystis biomass], and Arthrospira-20% [containing 20% dried Arthrospira sp. biomass without toxin]) and fed to female Nile tilapia. Blood and tissue samples were taken after 1, 7, and 28 d, and MC-LR was quantified in gills, muscle, and liver by using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Only in the liver were moderate concentrations of MC-LR detected. The stress hormone cortisol and glucose were analyzed from plasma, suggesting that all modified diets caused only minor to moderate stress, which was confirmed by analyses of hepatic glycogen. In addition, the effects of the different diets on growth performance were investigated by determining gene expression of hypophyseal growth hormone (GH) and hepatic insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I). For all diets, quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) demonstrated no significant effect on gene expression of the major endocrine hormones of the growth axis, whereas classical growth data, including growth and feed conversion ratio, displayed slight inhibitory effects of all modified diets independent of their MC-LR content. However, no significant change was found in condition or hepatosomatic index among the various diets, so it seems feasible that dried cyanobacterial biomass might be even used as a component in fish diet for Nile tilapia, which requires further research in more detail. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:561–568. © 2009 SETAC
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