First report of a toxic Nodularia spumigena (Nostocales/ Cyanobacteria) bloom in sub-tropical Australia. II. Bioaccumulation of nodularin in isolated populations of mullet (Mugilidae)

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012 Jul;9(7):2412-43. doi: 10.3390/ijerph9072412. Epub 2012 Jul 5.


Fish collected after a mass mortality at an artificial lake in south-east Queensland, Australia, were examined for the presence of nodularin as the lake had earlier been affected by a Nodularia bloom. Methanol extracts of muscle, liver, peritoneal and stomach contents were analysed by HPLC and tandem mass spectrometry; histological examination was conducted on livers from captured mullet. Livers of sea mullet (Mugil cephalus) involved in the fish kill contained high concentrations of nodularin (median 43.6 mg/kg, range 40.8-47.8 mg/kg dry weight; n = 3) and the toxin was also present in muscle tissue (median 44.0 μg/kg, range 32.3-56.8 μg/kg dry weight). Livers of fish occupying higher trophic levels accumulated much lower concentrations. Mullet captured from the lake 10 months later were also found to have high hepatic nodularin levels. DNA sequencing of mullet specimens revealed two species inhabiting the study lake: M. cephalus and an unidentified mugilid. The two mullet species appear to differ in their exposure and/or uptake of nodularin, with M. cephalus demonstrating higher tissue concentrations. The feeding ecology of mullet would appear to explain the unusual capacity of these fish to concentrate nodularin in their livers; these findings may have public health implications for mullet fisheries and aquaculture production where toxic cyanobacteria blooms affect source waters. This report incorporates a systematic review of the literature on nodularin measured in edible fish, shellfish and crustaceans.

Keywords: HPLC-MS/MS; Nodularia; cyanobacteria; cyanotoxin; mullet; nodularin; recreational; seafood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crustacea / chemistry
  • Eutrophication*
  • Gastrointestinal Contents / chemistry
  • Liver / chemistry*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Muscles / chemistry
  • Nodularia / isolation & purification
  • Peptides, Cyclic / pharmacokinetics*
  • Queensland
  • Shellfish / analysis
  • Smegmamorpha*


  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • nodularin