01 Apr 2016

ATS new publication on a sensitive in vitro tool to detect and evaluate Ostreopsis cf. ovata toxicity

Toxicological studies on marine algae toxins have increased due to the wide spreading of harmful algal blooms phenomena both in tropical and temperate areas. Of?cial reference methods are based on time consuming, expensive and unethical mouse bioassays.

ATS proposes a MEA-based approach to detect and characterize the effect of cultured Ostreopsis cf. ovata cells and their naturally released toxins, providing functional or toxicological information that may provide advantages in terms of risk identi?cation, cost, time and throughput.


In the last decade, the occurrence of harmful dino?agellate blooms of the genus Ostreopsis has increased both in frequency and in geographic distribution with adverse impacts on public health and the economy. Ostreopsis species are producers of palytoxin-like toxins (putative palytoxin and ovatoxins) which are among the most potent natural non-protein compounds known to date, exhibiting extreme toxicity in mammals, including humans. Most existing toxicological data are derived from in vivo mouse assay and are related to acute effects of pure palytoxin, without considering that the toxicity mechanism of dino?agellates can be dependent on the varying composition of complex biotoxins mixture and on the presence of cellular components.

In this study, in vitro neuronal networks coupled to microelectrode array (MEA)-based system are proposed, for the ?rst time, as sensitive biosensors for the evaluation of marine alga toxicity on mammalian cells. Toxic effect was investigated by testing three different treatments of laboratory cultured Ostreopsis cf. ovata cells: ?ltered and re-suspended algal cells; ?ltered, re-suspended and sonicated algal cells; conditioned growth medium devoid of algal cells. The great sensitivity of this system revealed the mixture of PTLX-complex analogues naturally released in the growth medium and the different potency of the three treatments to inhibit the neuronal network spontaneous electrical activity. Moreover, by means of the multiparametric analysis of neuronal network activity, the approach revealed a different toxicity mechanism of the cellular component compared to the algal conditioned growth medium, highlighting the potential active role of the ?rst treatment.

The authors: Susanna Alloisio, Valentina Giussani, Mario Nobile, Mariachiara Chiantore, Antonio Novellino

Harmful Algae 55 (2016) 230–237

Read the PDF of the research article here