Consistent inhibition of peripheral cholinesterases by neurotoxins from the freshwater cyanobacterium Anabaena flos‐aquae: Studies of ducks, swine, mice and a steer

W. O. Cook, Val Richard Beasley, R. A. Lovell, A. M. Dahlem, S. B. Hooser, N. A. Mahmood, W. W. Carmichael

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Freshwater algal blooms associated with outbreaks of sudden death in ducks and swine were examined for cholinesterase (ChE)‐inhibiting toxins as the possible cause of death. In both investigations, Anabaena flos‐aquae was identified as the predominant alga in the bloom material. In both cases, assays on tissues from mice dosed intraperitoneally with algal extracts revealed inhibition of ChE in whole blood, plasma, diaphragm and lung, but not in brain. With algae from the field case involving ducks, toxicosis was experimentally reproduced by oral intubation in ducks and swine, but not in mice and a steer. However, the steer, as with other species, was susceptible to toxicosis induced by parenteral administration of an algal extract. Assays on tissues from affected animals revealed inhibition of ChE in whole blood, plasma, red blood cells, diaphragm, lung and pectoral muscle, but not in brain or retina. In vitro electric eel (EC ChE assays with HPLC‐purified extracts of the same alga revealed direct inhibition of acetylcholinesterase. Clinical signs in all animals were compatible with muscarinic and nicotinic cholinergic stimulation. Death of exposed animals is an apparent result of peripheral ChE inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-922
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 1989


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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