Cyanotoxins: producing organisms, occurrence, toxicity, mechanism of action and human health toxicological risk evaluation

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cyanobacteria were present on the earth 3.5 billion years ago; since then they have colonized almost all terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. They produce a high number of bioactive molecules, among which some are cyanotoxins. Cyanobacterial growth at high densities, forming blooms, is increasing in extension and frequency, following anthropogenic activities and climate changes, giving rise to some concern for human health and animal life exposed to cyanotoxins. Numerous cases of lethal poisonings have been associated with cyanotoxins ingestion in wild animal and livestock. In humans few episodes of lethal or severe human poisonings have been recorded after acute or short-term exposure, but the repeated/chronic exposure to low cyanotoxin levels remains a critical issue. The properties of the most frequently detected cyanotoxins (namely, microcystins, nodularins, cylindrospermopsin and neurotoxins) are here critically reviewed, describing for each toxin the available information on producing organisms, biosynthesis/genetic and occurrence, with a focus on the toxicological profile (including kinetics, acute systemic toxicity, mechanism and mode of action, local effects, repeated toxicity, genotoxicity, carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity; human health effects and epidemiological studies; animal poisoning) with the derivation of health-based values and considerations on the risks for human health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1049-1130
Number of pages82
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Cyanobacteria
  • Cyanotoxins
  • Mechanism of action
  • Toxicological risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Cyanotoxins: producing organisms, occurrence, toxicity, mechanism of action and human health toxicological risk evaluation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this