The freshwater cyanobacterium Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii is known to produce toxic effects in several countries. Acute and chronic exposures to C. raciborskii in Australia have been linked to liver damage (hepatotoxicity) with concomitant effects on the kidneys, adrenal glands, small intestine, lungs, thymus, and heart. The alkaloid cylindrospermopsin, which produces these toxic effects, is thought to be a potent inhibitor of protein synthesis. C. raciborskii strains producing cylindrospermopsin or analogue alkaloids have also been reported in Florida, USA, and Thailand. Brazilian isolates of C. raciborskii are also toxic but act by a different mechanism, causing acute death in mice with neurotoxic symptoms similar to those induced by the saxitoxins. In this article we compare the toxicity in the mouse of a C. raciborskii French strain with C. raciborskii strains from various other sources (Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Hungary). We tested the toxicity of cell extracts by a mouse bioassay. Acute, fatal neurotoxicity was produced by the Brazilian strain, which was confirmed by liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection of the cell extracts, which revealed the presence of saxitoxin, neosaxitoxin, and decarbamoylsaxitoxin, along with two unidentified compounds. Acute hepatotoxicity with severe liver, kidney, and thymus damage was observed with the Australian cylindrospermopsin-producing strain. The Mexican and Hungarian strains were not found to be toxic to mice in our experimental conditions. No animals died after exposure to the extracts of the French C. raciborskii strain. Histological examination of the liver revealed moderate, multifocal necrosis characterized by small areas of hepatocellular necrosis, combined with disorganization of the parenchyma and congestion of the inner sinusoid. These symptoms and lesions resembled those induced by cylindrospermopsin, but the chemical analysis performed by liquid chromatography coupled with either a diode array detector or a mass spectrometer demonstrated that this toxin was not present in our culture extract. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 18: 176–186, 2003.