Carotenoid glycosides from cyanobacteria are teratogenic in the zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryo model

Asha Jaja-Chimedza, Kristel Sanchez, Miroslav Gantar, Patrick Gibbs, Michael Schmale, John P. Berry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Toxigenicity of cyanobacteria is widely associated with production of several well-described toxins that pose recognized threats to human and ecosystem health as part of both freshwater eutrophication, and episodic blooms in freshwater and coastal habitats. However, a preponderance of evidence indicates contribution of additional bioactive, and potentially toxic, metabolites. In the present study, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryo was used as a model of vertebrate development to identify, and subsequently isolate and characterize, teratogenic metabolites from two representative strains of C. raciborskii. Using this approach, three chemically related carotenoids - and specifically the xanthophyll glycosides, myxol 2′-glycoside (1), 4-ketomyxol 2′-glycoside (2) and 4-hydroxymyxol 2′-glycoside (3) - which are, otherwise, well known pigment molecules from cyanobacteria were isolated as potently teratogenic compounds. Carotenoids are recognized “pro-retinoids” with retinoic acid, as a metabolic product of the oxidative cleavage of carotenoids, established as both key mediator of embryo development and, consequently, a potent teratogen. Accordingly, a comparative toxicological study of chemically diverse carotenoids, as well as apocarotenoids and retinoids, was undertaken. Based on this, a working model of the developmental toxicity of carotenoids as pro-retinoids is proposed, and the teratogenicity of these widespread metabolites is discussed in relation to possible impacts on aquatic vertebrate populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-489
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2017


  • Carotenoid
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Myxoxanthophyll
  • Retinoid
  • Teratogenicity
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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