The environmental neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (l-BMAA) is deposited into birds' eggs

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2018 Jan:147:720-724. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2017.09.032. Epub 2017 Sep 20.


The neurotoxic amino acid β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) has been implicated in the etiology of neurodegenerative disorders. BMAA is also a known developmental neurotoxin and research indicates that the sources of human and wildlife exposure may be more diverse than previously anticipated. The aim of the present study was therefore to examine whether BMAA can be transferred into birds' eggs. Egg laying quail were dosed with 14C-labeled BMAA. The distribution of radioactivity in the birds and their laid eggs was then examined at different time points by autoradiography and phosphoimaging analysis. To evaluate the metabolic stability of the BMAA molecule, the distribution of 14C-methyl- and 14C-carboxyl-labeled BMAA were compared. The results revealed a pronounced incorporation of radioactivity in the eggs, predominantly in the yolk but also in the albumen. Imaging analysis showed that the concentrations of radioactivity in the liver decreased about seven times between the 24h and the 72h time points, while the concentrations in egg yolk remained largely unchanged. At 72h the egg yolk contained about five times the concentration of radioactivity in the liver. Both BMAA preparations gave rise to similar distribution pattern in the bird tissues and in the eggs, indicating metabolic stability of the labeled groups. The demonstrated deposition into eggs warrants studies of BMAAs effects on bird development. Moreover, birds' eggs may be a source of human BMAA exposure, provided that the laying birds are exposed to BMAA via their diet.

Keywords: Birds' eggs; Cyanobacterial neurotoxin; Developmental toxicity; Human exposure; Secretion.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Diamino / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Diamino / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Autoradiography
  • Birds / metabolism*
  • Cyanobacteria Toxins
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Neurotoxins / metabolism
  • Neurotoxins / toxicity*
  • Ovum / metabolism*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Amino Acids, Diamino
  • Cyanobacteria Toxins
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Neurotoxins
  • beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine