Ciguatoxins activate the Calcineurin signalling pathway in Yeasts: Potential for development of an alternative detection tool?

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Abstract

Ciguatoxins (CTXs) are lipid-soluble polyether compounds produced by dinoflagellates from the genus Gambierdiscus spp. typically found in tropical and subtropical zones. This endemic area is however rapidly expanding due to environmental perturbations, and both toxic Gambierdiscus spp. and ciguatoxic fishes have been recently identified in the North Atlantic Ocean (Madeira and Canary islands) and Mediterranean Sea. Ciguatoxins bind to Voltage Gated Sodium Channels on the membranes of sensory neurons, causing Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP) in humans, a disease characterized by a complex array of gastrointestinal, neurological, neuropsychological, and cardiovascular symptoms. Although CFP is the most frequently reported non bacterial food-borne poisoning worldwide, there is still no simple and quick way of detecting CTXs in contaminated samples. In the prospect to engineer rapid and easy-to-use CTXs live cells-based tests, we have studied the effects of CTXs on the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a unicellular model which displays a remarkable conservation of cellular signalling pathways with higher eukaryotes. Taking advantage of this high level of conservation, yeast strains have been genetically modified to encode specific transcriptional reporters responding to CTXs exposure. These yeast strains were further exposed to different concentrations of either purified CTX or micro-algal extracts containing CTXs. Our data establish that CTXs are not cytotoxic to yeast cells even at concentrations as high as 1 μM, and cause an increase in the level of free intracellular calcium in yeast cells. Concomitantly, a dose-dependent activation of the calcineurin signalling pathway is observed, as assessed by measuring the activity of specific transcriptional reporters in the engineered yeast strains. These findings offer promising prospects regarding the potential development of a yeast cells-based test that could supplement or, in some instances, replace current methods for the routine detection of CTXs in seafood products.

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