Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 102 (14), 5074-8

Diverse Taxa of Cyanobacteria Produce beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine, a Neurotoxic Amino Acid


Diverse Taxa of Cyanobacteria Produce beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine, a Neurotoxic Amino Acid

Paul Alan Cox et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Erratum in

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Jul 5;102(27):9734


Cyanobacteria can generate molecules hazardous to human health, but production of the known cyanotoxins is taxonomically sporadic. For example, members of a few genera produce hepatotoxic microcystins, whereas production of hepatotoxic nodularins appears to be limited to a single genus. Production of known neurotoxins has also been considered phylogenetically unpredictable. We report here that a single neurotoxin, beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine, may be produced by all known groups of cyanobacteria, including cyanobacterial symbionts and free-living cyanobacteria. The ubiquity of cyanobacteria in terrestrial, as well as freshwater, brackish, and marine environments, suggests a potential for wide-spread human exposure.


Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Cyanobacterial strains that produce BMAA representing different morphological sections. (a) The bloom-forming, filamentous, and colony-forming Trichodesmium thiebautii (section III). (Scale bar: 100 μm.) (b) The unicellular Synechococcus PCC 6301 (section I). (Scale bar: 1 μm.) (c) The filamentous Symploca PCC 8002 (section III). (Scale bar: 10 μm.) (d) The filamentous, nonbranching, and heterocystous (H) Nostoc PCC 7107 (section IV). (Scale bar: 10 μm.) (e) The filamentous, heterocystous (H) and branching (arrow) Fischerella PCC 7521 (section V). (Scale bar: 15 μm.)
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
HPLC chromatograph of BMAA peak in Chroococcidiopsis indica GT-3–26 (section II) (solid line) and BMAA authenticated standard (dashed line) obtained by using fluorescence detection.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Satellite photograph of a Trichodesmium bloom by using SeaWiFS imagery for spectral imaging at 443, 490, and 550 nm off the eastern coast of Florida on October 30, 1998.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 104 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles

Publication types

MeSH terms

LinkOut - more resources