Bioaccumulation of algal toxins and changes in physiological parameters in Mediterranean mussels from the North Adriatic Sea (Italy)


Interdepartment Centre for Environmental Science Research (CIRSA), University of Bologna, Via Sant'Alberto 163, 48100 Ravenna, Italy. E-mail:


The Northwestern Adriatic Sea is a commercially important area in aquaculture, accounting for about 90% of the Italian mussel production, and it was subjected to recurring cases of mussel farm closures due to toxic algae poisoning. A spatial and temporal survey of four sites along the North Adriatic Sea coasts of Emilia Romagna (Italy) was undertaken to study the possible impairments of physiological parameters in Mytilus galloprovincialis naturally exposed to algal toxins. The sites were selected as part of the monitoring network for the assessment of algal toxins bioaccumulation by the competent Authority. Samples positive to paralytic shellfish toxins and to lipophilic toxins were detected through the mouse bioassay. Lipophilic toxins were assessed by HPLC. Decreasing yessotoxins (YTX) levels were observed in mussels from June to December, while homo-YTX contents increased concomitantly. Lysosome membrane stability (LMS), glutathione S-transferase and catalase activities, and multixenobiotic resistance (MXR)-related gene expressions were assessed as parameters related to the mussel health status and widely utilized in environmental biomonitoring. Levels of cAMP were also measured, as possibly involved in the algal toxin mechanisms of action. Low LMS values were observed in hemocytes from mussels positive to the mouse bioassay. MXR-related gene expressions were greatly inhibited in mussels positive to the mouse bioassay. Clear correlations were established between increasing homo-YTX contents (and decreasing YTX) and increasing cAMP levels in the tissues. Similarly, significant correlations were established between the increase of homo-YTX and cAMP levels, and the expressions of three MXR-related genes at submaximal toxin concentrations. In conclusion, YTXs may affect mussel physiological parameters, including hemocyte functionality, gene expression and cell signaling. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 28: 451–470, 2013.