Microcystins alter chemotactic behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans by selectively targeting the AWA sensory neuron

Caroline E. Moore, Pamela J Lein, Birgit Puschner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Harmful algal blooms expose humans and animals to microcystins (MCs) through contaminated drinking water. While hepatotoxicity following acute exposure to MCs is well documented, neurotoxicity after sub-lethal exposure is poorly understood. We developed a novel statistical approach using a generalized linear model and the quasibinomial family to analyze neurotoxic effects in adult Caenorhabditis elegans exposed to MC-LR or MC-LF for 24 h. Selective effects of toxin exposure on AWA versus AWC sensory neuron function were determined using a chemotaxis assay. With a non-monotonic response MCs altered AWA but not AWC function, and MC-LF was more potent than MC-LR. To probe a potential role for protein phosphatases (PPs) in MC neurotoxicity, we evaluated the chemotactic response in worms exposed to the PP1 inhibitor tautomycin or the PP2A inhibitor okadaic acid for 24 h. Okadaic acid impaired both AWA and AWC function, while tautomycin had no effect on function of either neuronal cell type at the concentrations tested. These findings suggest that MCs alter the AWA neuron at concentrations that do not cause AWC toxicity via mechanisms other than PP inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1813-1836
Number of pages24
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2014


  • Caenorhabidititis elegans
  • Chemotaxis
  • Generalized linear model
  • Microcystins
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Protein phosphatase
  • Sensory neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Medicine(all)


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