Putative high-level toxicity pathways based on evidence of brevetoxin immunotoxicity in marine fauna

Aquat Toxicol. 2022 Nov:252:106298. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2022.106298. Epub 2022 Sep 11.


Red tide events, caused by a toxin producing dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis, occur annually in Florida and Texas. These events lead to health risks for both humans and wildlife that utilize coastal environments. Brevetoxins, potent lipophilic neurotoxins produced by K. brevis, modulate immune responses in laboratory studies with model organisms and in the natural environment in both humans and wildlife. Studies show that brevetoxins activate immune cells, stimulate production of gamma-globulins, cytokines, and neutrophils, modulate lysozyme activity, induce apoptosis, and modulate lymphocyte proliferation in marine species. The objective of this review was to summarize brevetoxin-induced immunotoxicity in marine animals based on available peer-reviewed literature about K. brevis blooms and associated health concerns and propose putative toxicity pathways. This review identifies knowledge gaps within current brevetoxin induced immunotoxicity research, including assessing the long-term impacts of brevetoxin exposure, elucidating the mechanistic linkages between brevetoxins and immune cells, and evaluating repeated and chronic versus acute brevetoxin exposure implications on overall organismal health. The putative immunotoxicity pathways based on evidence from brevetoxin-exposure in marine fauna described in this review represent a useful tool and resource for researchers, wildlife managers, and policy makers. This review and proposed putative immunotoxicity pathways will inform decisions regarding the risks of algal blooms, as it pertains to marine animal health.

Keywords: Brevetoxin; Immunotoxicity; Karenia brevis; Marine organism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dinoflagellida* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Marine Toxins / metabolism
  • Marine Toxins / toxicity
  • Muramidase / metabolism
  • Neurotoxins / toxicity
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / toxicity
  • gamma-Globulins / metabolism


  • brevetoxin
  • Neurotoxins
  • Muramidase
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Marine Toxins
  • Cytokines
  • gamma-Globulins