Occurrence and toxicity of microcystin congeners other than MC-LR and MC-RR: A review

Food Chem Toxicol. 2019 Mar:125:106-132. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2018.12.042. Epub 2018 Dec 28.


The occurrence of cyanobacterial toxins is being increasingly reported. This is a reason for concern as they can induce toxic effects both in humans and in the environment. Among them, microcystins (MCs) are the best described and most diverse group of cyanobacterial toxins, and MC-LR and MC-RR are the congeners most widely investigated. However, the number of MC variants has also increased in recent years. Some of these minority variants have been shown to have a different toxicokinetic and toxicodynamic profile, but research focused on them is still limited. Moreover, in some water bodies these minority variants can be the predominant toxins. Nonetheless, MC-LR is the only one used for risk evaluation purposes at present. In order to contribute to more realistic risk assessments in the future, the aim of this review was to compile the available information in the scientific literature regarding the occurrence and concentration of minority MCs in water and food samples, and their toxic effects. The data retrieved demonstrate the congener-specific toxicity of MCs, as well as many data gaps in relation to analytical or mechanistic aspects, among others. Therefore, further research is needed to improve the toxicological characterization of these toxins and the exposure scenarios.

Keywords: Cyanotoxins; Microcystin; Occurrence; Toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Food Analysis
  • Microcystins / analysis*
  • Microcystins / toxicity*
  • Water / chemistry


  • Microcystins
  • Water