Microcystins (MCs) are potent hepatotoxins acting by the inhibition of protein phosphatase 1 and 2A, and may promote liver tumors. Moreover, studies also suggest they are nephrotoxic. The aim of the present study was to assess possible in vitro effects of microcystin-LR (which contains the amino acids leucine and arginine, the most widely studied and distributed variant of all microcystins) on the selected immune functions of the cells isolated from the head kidney of carp. In the experiments, pure microcystin-LR (MC-LR), was used at concentrations of 0.01, 0.1, 0.5, and 1 µg/ml RPMI-1640 medium. Leucocytes (lymphocytes and phagocytes) were isolated by centrifugation on a density gradient. Lymphocyte proliferation, intracellular production of reactive oxygen species by phagocytes, and the presence of apoptotic and/or necrotic cells were assessed. The respiratory burst activity of phagocytic cells was increased at the lowest toxin concentration used in the study, but it was decreased at higher concentrations. Using a sensitive luminescent immunoassay, MC-LR was observed to have no influence on the T-cell proliferation but decreased the proliferation of B lymphocytes. Moreover, it was noted that MC-LR induced necrosis to a higher degree than apoptosis in fish leucocytes. The results of the present study suggest the modulatory potency of microcystin-LR on fish leucocytes. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:569–574. © 2009 SETAC
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