A review of neurotoxicity of microcystins

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2016 Apr;23(8):7211-9. doi: 10.1007/s11356-016-6073-y. Epub 2016 Feb 9.


Cyanobacterial blooms-produced microcystins are secondary metabolites which can accumulate in the food chain and contaminate water, thus posing a potential threat to the health of aquatic animals and even humans. Microcystin toxicity affects not only the liver but also the other organs, i.e., the brain. The serious neurotoxicity effects caused by microcystins then lead to various symptoms. This review focuses on the neurotoxicity of microcystins. Microcystins can cross blood-brain barrier with the transport of Oatps/OATPs, causing neurostructural, functional, and behavioral changes. In this review, potential uptake mechanisms and neurotoxicity mechanisms are summarized, including neurotransmissions, neurochannels, signal transduction, oxidative stress, and cytoskeleton disruption. However, further researches are needed for detailed studies on signaling pathways and the downstream pathways of neurotoxicity of microcystins.

Keywords: Brain; Mechanisms; Microcystins; Neurotoxicity; Oatps/OATPs; Toxic effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / drug effects*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Cyanobacteria / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Microcystins / pharmacokinetics
  • Microcystins / toxicity*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / etiology*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / metabolism
  • Organic Anion Transporters / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / pharmacokinetics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Microcystins
  • Organic Anion Transporters
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical