Sub-chronic exposure to waterborne extracellular microcystin-LR impairs calcium homeostasis in rainbow trout

Diane A. Mielewczyk, Chris N. Glover, Chantelle E. Klaczek, Greg G. Goss, Gavin N. Saari

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review


Fish mortality is associated with harmful algal blooms, although whether toxicity is related directly to the presence of cyanotoxins or the prevailing water chemistry remains unclear. Similarly, while planktivorous fish may be exposed to toxin through the diet, the hazard posed by waterborne extracellular toxin to carnivorous fish is less well understood. In this study rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were exposed for up to 28 d to waterborne microcystin-LR at nominal concentrations of 1.5 and 50 µg L−1 (measured values 2 and 49 µg L−1, respectively). The former represents the Canadian drinking water guideline, and the latter an elevated environmental level. This study hypothesised that waterborne toxin exposure would specifically impact gill function, and given the importance of this tissue in freshwater fish ion regulation, effects on plasma ions and branchial ion transporter activity would be observed. Microcystin-LR exposure resulted in a significant and persistent hypocalcaemia at the higher exposure concentration, but plasma sodium and branchial activities of the sodium/potassium ATPase, proton ATPase and calcium ATPase enzymes remained unaffected. An in vitro assessment failed to show any effect of microcystin-LR on branchial calcium ATPase activity even at exposure concentrations as high as 1000 µg L−1. A transient increase in hepatic alkaline phosphatase activity was also observed at 49 µg L−1, but there were no effects of toxin exposure on branchial or hepatic lactate dehydrogenase activity. These results suggest that microcystin-LR exposure does not have a general effect on ion regulation, but instead produces a novel and specific impact on calcium metabolism in rainbow trout, although the mechanism underlying this effect remains unknown.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114542
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Publication statusPublished - Feb. 2023


  • Cyanotoxin
  • Fish ecotoxicity assay
  • Harmful algal bloom
  • Ionoregulation
  • Plasma calcium


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