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Identification of Trichotoxin, a Novel Chlorinated Compound Associated with the Bloom Forming Cyanobacterium, Trichodesmium thiebautii

Author(s): Schock, T.B.; K. Huncik; K.R. Beauchesne; T.A. Villareal; P.D.R. Moeller

NCCOS Center: HML (

Publication Type: Journal Article

Journal Title: Environmental Science and Technology

Date of Publication: 2011

Reference Information: 45(17): 7503-7509

Keywords: Trichodesmium; toxin; chlorinated natural products; detection methods; cyanobacteria; trichotoxin

Abstract: Trichodesmium is a suspected toxin-producing nonheterocystous cyanobacteria ubiquitous in tropical, subtropical, and temperate seas. The genus is known for its ability to fix nitrogen and form massive blooms. In oligotrophic seas, it can dominate the biomass and be a major component of oceanic primary production and global nitrogen cycling. Numerous reports suggest Trichodesmiumderived toxins are a cause of death of fish, crabs, and bivalves. Laboratory studies have demonstrated neurotoxic effects in T. thiebautii cell extracts and field reports suggest respiratory distress and contact dermatitis of humans at collection sites. However, Trichodesmium toxins have not been identified and characterized. Here, we report the extraction of a lipophilic toxin from field-collected T. thiebautii using a purification method of several chromatographic techniques, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), mass spectroscopy (MS), and Fourier transformed-infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). Trichotoxin has a molecular formula of C20H27ClO and a mass of 318 m/z and possesses cytotoxic activity against GH4C1 rat pituitary and Neuro-2a mouse neuroblastoma cells. A detection method using liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) was developed. This compound is the first reported cytotoxic natural product isolated and fully characterized from a Trichodesmium species.