Neurotoxicity Research

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 143–152 | Cite as

Analysis of Neurotoxic Amino Acids from Marine Waters, Microbial Mats, and Seafood Destined for Human Consumption in the Arabian Gulf

  • Aspassia D. Chatziefthimiou
  • Eric J. Deitch
  • William B. Glover
  • James T. Powell
  • Sandra Anne Banack
  • Renee A. Richer
  • Paul A. Cox
  • James S. MetcalfEmail author


Human health risks associated with exposure to algal and cyanobacterial toxins (phycotoxins) have been largely concerned with aquatic habitats. People inhabiting desert environments may be exposed to phycotoxins present in terrestrial environments, where cyanobacterial crusts dominate. Seafood comprises a significant portion of the human diet in desert environments proximal to an ocean or sea. Consequently, in addition to terrestrial exposure to cyanotoxins, the potential exists that seafood may be an important exposure route for cyanotoxins in desert regions. Understanding the possible risk of exposure from seafood will help create cyanotoxin health guidelines for people living in environments that rely on seafood. Commonly-consumed local seafood products destined for human consumption were purchased from a fish market in Doha, Qatar. Organs were excised, extracted, and analyzed for the neurotoxic amino acid β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) and the isomers 2,4-diaminobutyric acid (DAB) and N-2(aminoethyl)glycine (AEG). The presence and concentration of neurotoxic amino acids were investigated in organisms from various trophic levels to examine the potential for biomagnification. Although BMAA and isomers were detected in marine microbial mats, as well as in marine plankton net trawls associated with diatoms and dinoflagellates, in seafood, only AEG and DAB were present at low concentrations in various trophic levels. The findings of this study suggest that exposure to neurotoxic amino acids through seafood in the Arabian Gulf may be minor, yet the presence of BMAA in phytoplankton confirms the need for further monitoring of marine waters and seafood to protect human health.


Seafood Seawater Microbial mats Desert BMAA and isomers Biomagnification Human consumption Risk assessment 



This publication was made possible by NPRP grant 4-775-1-116 from the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of Qatar Foundation). The statements made herein are solely the responsibility of the authors. We wish to acknowledge that Figs. 1 and 3 of this manuscript were created by Ms. Jenine Davidson. We thank Dr. Rodrigo Riera for his advice on the choice of marine species to be analyzed, and Drs. Moncef Ladjimi, Ali Sultan, Anthony Hay, and Michel Louge for providing funding and support to ADC.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aspassia D. Chatziefthimiou
    • 1
    • 2
  • Eric J. Deitch
    • 1
  • William B. Glover
    • 3
  • James T. Powell
    • 3
  • Sandra Anne Banack
    • 3
  • Renee A. Richer
    • 2
    • 4
  • Paul A. Cox
    • 3
  • James S. Metcalf
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Weill Cornell Medicine - Qatar, Education CityDohaQatar
  2. 2.Richer Environments, Environmental ConsultingDohaQatar
  3. 3.Brain Chemistry LabsInstitute for EthnomedicineJacksonUSA
  4. 4.University of Wisconsin MarinetteMarinetteUSA

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