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, 120 (3), A110-6

The Emerging Science of BMAA: Do Cyanobacteria Contribute to Neurodegenerative Disease?

The Emerging Science of BMAA: Do Cyanobacteria Contribute to Neurodegenerative Disease?

Wendee Holtcamp. Environ Health Perspect.


BMAA is produced by 95% of the genera of cyanobacteria tested, including Nostoc, which grows in the roots of the cycad tree and appears as the green lining in the cutaway roots pictured above. Molecular structure: © Scimat/Photo Researchers, Inc.; all other images: Paul A. Cox
The seeds of the cycad are used as food and medicine by the indigenous Chamorro people of Guam. They are also eaten by bats and feral pigs that are consumed by the Chamorro. The resulting heavy dietary intake of BMAA has been linked with a constellation of neurodegenerative symptoms known locally as lytico-bodig. All images: Paul A. Cox
The genetic code in the messenger RNA holds the “recipe” for constructing a protein, and transfer RNA, which contains the matching code, attaches the correct amino acid. New research indicates BMAA can bind to serine (SER) transfer RNA and become part of the protein chain. Kenneth Rodgers, Matthew Ray/EHP
Once BMAA is incorporated into the chain, the protein can no longer fold properly. Clumps of misfolded proteins may form the aggregates that characterize neurodegenerative disease. Kenneth Rodgers, Matthew Ray/EHP

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