Freshwater cyanobacteria produce highly toxic secondary metabolites, which can be transported downstream by rivers and waterways into the sea. Estuarine and coastal aquaculture sites exposed to toxic cyanobacteria raise concerns that shellfish may accumulate and transfer cyanotoxins in the food web. This study aims to describe the competitive pattern of uptake and depuration of a wide range of microcystins (MC-LR, MC-LF, MC-LW, MC-LY, [Asp3]-MC-LR/[Dha7]-MC-LR, MC-HilR) and nodularins (NOD cyclic and linear) within the common blue mussel Mytilus edulis exposed to a combined culture of Microcystis aeruginosa and Nodularia spumigena into the coastal environment.
Different distribution profiles of MCs/NODs in the experimental system were observed. The majority of MCs/NODs were present intracellularly which is representative of healthy cyanobacterial cultures, with MC-LR and NOD the most abundant analogues. Higher removal rate was observed for NOD (≈96%) compared to MCs (≈50%) from the water phase. Accumulation of toxins in M. edulis was fast, reaching up to 3.4 μg/g shellfish tissue four days after the end of the 3-days exposure period, with NOD (1.72 μg/g) and MC-LR (0.74 μg/g) as the dominant toxins, followed by MC-LF (0.35 μg/g) and MC-LW (0.31 μg/g). Following the end of the exposure period depuration was incomplete after 27 days (0.49 μg/g of MCs/NODs). MCs/NODs were also present in faecal material and extrapallial fluid after 24 h of exposure with MCs the main contributors to the total cyanotoxin load in faecal material and NOD in the extrapallial fluid. Maximum concentration of MCs/NODs accumulated in a typical portion of mussels (20 mussels, ≈4 g each) was beyond greater the acute, seasonal and lifetime tolerable daily intake. Even after 27 days of depuration, consuming mussels harvested during even short term harmful algae blooms in close proximity to shellfish beds might carry a high health risk, highlighting the need for testing.