The occurrence of domoic acid linked to a toxic diatom bloom in a new potential vector: The tunicate Pyura chilensis (piure)

Marine Toxins Laboratory, Physiology and Biophysics Program, Biomedical Sciences Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Independencia 1027, Santiago, Chile.
Toxicon (Impact Factor: 2.49). 07/2009; 54(6):754-62. DOI: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2009.05.033
Source: PubMed


The tunicate Pyura chilensis (Molina, 1782); Phylum Chordata; Subphylum Urochordata; Class Ascidiacea, common local name "piure" or sea squirt; a filter-feeder (plankton and suspended particles) sessile species; may play an important role in monitoring domoic acid (DA) the principal toxic component of Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP). Significant DA concentrations have been determined in tunicate samples, collected during a recent ASP outbreak in Bahía Inglesa, an important scallop (Argopecten purpuratus) farming area. Several infaunal species were tested for the presence of DA, in addition to the usual scallop monitoring programme. DA was found at sub-toxic levels in filtering bivalves such as mussels (Mytilus chilensis), large mussels (Aulacomya ater) and clams (Protothaca thaca) (6.4, 5.4 and 4.7 microg DA/g tissue respectively). Of particular interest was the observation of significant accumulations of toxic Pseudo-nitzschia sp. diatoms in the internal siphon and atrium spaces of the tunicate. Toxin distribution within major tunicate organs was heterogeneous with 8.7-15.5 microg DA/g in edible tissues, 14.9-17.9 microg DA/g in the fecal material and 13.6-32.7 microg DA/g in the gut content. DA was determined by HPLC-UV and confirmed by diode-array detection and LC-MS/MS analysis. This is the first report of the presence of DA in a tunicate that is regularly consumed by coastal populations. These results confirm the need to include these organisms in sanitation programs for marine toxins.

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