Institute for Ethnomedicine

Jackson, WY, United States

Institute for Ethnomedicine

Jackson, WY, United States
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Banack S.A.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Cox P.A.,Institute for Ethnomedicine
Neurotoxicity Research | Year: 2017

The theory that β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), a cyanobacterial toxin, contaminates traditional food supplies of the Chamorro people of Guam is supported by the recent finding that chronic dietary exposure to L-BMAA in vervets (Chlorocebus sabaeus) triggers the formation of neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) and β-amyloid plaques in the brain. In the first experiment, we found that all four vervets receiving a 210 mg/kg dose for 140 days developed NFT and sparse amyloid deposits. In the second experiment, all eight vervets receiving a 210 mg/kg dose for 140 days developed NFT and amyloid deposits, as well as all eight vervets that received only 21 mg/kg. Based on dietary surveys of the Chamorro people, we estimated lifetime chronic BMAA exposure at a high and a low level: 1) adult male Chamorros eating two flying foxes per month plus one 30 g serving of cycad flour per week; and 2) adult male Chamorros eating one 30 g serving of cycad flour per day combined with the consumption of eight flying foxes per month. The resultant cumulative lifetime Chamorro exposures ranged from 1 to 41 g/kg and are comparable to the total lifetime vervet exposures in our experiments of 2 and 22 g/kg, respectively. Furthermore, measured protein-bound BMAA concentrations of vervets fed L-BMAA powder are comparable to measured protein-bound BMAA concentrations in postmortem brain tissues of Chamorros who died with ALS/PDC. © 2017 Springer Science+Business Media New York

Banack S.A.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Murch S.J.,University of British Columbia
Neurotoxicity Research | Year: 2017

β-N-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) is a non-canonical amino acid implicated as a cause for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/parkinsonism dementia complex and potentially other neurodegenerative diseases. As interest in this molecule has increased, there has been a proliferation of methods along with a plethora of opinions as to the superiority of some methods over others. We analyzed the literature with reference to BMAA and its naturally occurring isomers, N-(2-aminoethyl) glycine (AEG) and 2,4 diaminobutyric acid (DAB). A comparison of methods, results, and critiques reveal that a single method has been approved by the AOAC but several different methods provide comparable BMAA quantification concentrations in similar tissues. We also describe a productive way to move forward as technology improves and changes. © 2017 Springer Science+Business Media New York

Andersson M.,Uppsala University | Karlsson O.,Uppsala University | Karlsson O.,Karolinska Institutet | Banack S.A.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Brandt I.,Uppsala University
Toxicology Letters | Year: 2016

The cyanobacterial non-proteinogenic amino acid β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) is proposed to be involved in the etiology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/parkinsonism dementia complex. When administered as single doses to neonatal rats, BMAA gives rise to cognitive and neurodegenerative impairments in the adult animal. Here, we employed mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) and autoradiographic imaging to examine the mother-to-pup transfer of BMAA in rats. The results show that unchanged BMAA was secreted into the milk and distributed to the suckling pups. The concentration of BMAA in pup stomach milk and the neonatal liver peaked after 8 h, while the concentration in the pup brain increased throughout the study period. About 1 and 6% of the BMAA recovered from adult liver and brain were released following hydrolysis, suggesting that this fraction was associated with protein. No association to milk protein was observed. Injection of rat pups with [methyl-14C]-L-BMAA or [carboxyl-14C]-L-BMAA resulted in highly similar distribution patterns, indicating no or low metabolic elimination of the methylamino- or carboxyl groups. In conclusion, BMAA is transported as a free amino acid to rat milk and suckling pups. The results strengthen the proposal that mothers’ milk could be a source of exposure for BMAA in human infants. © 2016 Elsevier Ireland Ltd

Downing S.,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University | Downing T.G.,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University | Downing T.G.,Institute for Ethnomedicine
Toxicon | Year: 2016

The neurotoxic amino acid β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) is produced by cyanobacteria under nitrogen starvation conditions and its metabolism is closely associated with cellular nitrogen control. Very little is known regarding the metabolism or biosynthesis of this amino acid in the producing organisms and current knowledge is limited to the spontaneous formation of carbamate adducts in the presence of aqueous carbon dioxide, the rapid removal of free cellular BMAA upon the addition of ammonia to nitrogen-starved cyanobacterial cultures, and the link between cellular nitrogen status and BMAA synthesis. Data presented here show that exogenous BMAA is readily metabolised by cyanobacteria during which, the primary amino group is rapidly transferred to other cellular amino acids. Furthermore, data suggest that BMAA is metabolised in cyanobacteria via a reversible transamination reaction. This study presents novel data on BMAA metabolism in cyanobacteria and provides the first proposed biosynthetic precursor to BMAA biosynthesis in cyanobacteria. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.

Downing S.,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University | Banack S.A.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Metcalf J.S.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Cox P.A.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Downing T.G.,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Toxicon | Year: 2011

β-N-methylamino-L-alanine, an unusual amino acid implicated in neurodegenerative disease, has been detected in cultures of nearly all genera of environmentally ubiquitous cyanobacteria tested. The compound is present within cyanobacterial cells in free and protein-associated forms, with large variations occurring in the concentration of these pools between species as well as within single strains. With a lack of knowledge and supporting data on the regulation of BMAA production and the role of this compound in cyanobacteria, the association between BMAA and cyanobacteria is still subject to debate. In this study we investigated the biosynthesis of BMAA in axenic non-diazotrophic cyanobacterial cultures using the stable isotope 15N. Nitrogen starvation of nutritionally replete cells resulted in an increase in free cellular 15N BMAA suggesting that BMAA may be the result of catabolism to provide nitrogen or that BMAA is synthesised to serve a functional role in the cell in response to nitrogen deprivation. The addition of NO 3 - and NH 4 + to the culture medium following starvation resulted in a decrease of free cellular BMAA without a corresponding increase in the protein-associated fraction. The use of ammonia as a nitrogen source resulted in a more rapid reduction of BMAA when compared to nitrate. This study provides the first data regarding the regulation of intracellular BMAA concentrations in cyanobacteria with results conclusively showing the production of 15N BMAA by an axenic cyanobacterial culture. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Dunlop R.A.,University of Technology, Sydney | Cox P.A.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Banack S.A.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Rodgers K.J.,University of Technology, Sydney
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Mechanisms of protein misfolding are of increasing interest in the aetiology of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by protein aggregation and tangles including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). Some forms of neurodegenerative illness are associated with mutations in genes which control assembly of disease related proteins. For example, the mouse sticky mutation sti, which results in undetected mischarging of tRNAAla with serine resulting in the substitution of serine for alanine in proteins causes cerebellar Purkinje cell loss and ataxia in laboratory animals. Replacement of serine 422 with glutamic acid in tau increases the propensity of tau aggregation associated with neurodegeneration. However, the possibility that environmental factors can trigger abnormal folding in proteins remains relatively unexplored. We here report that a non-protein amino acid, β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), can be misincorporated in place of l-serine into human proteins. We also report that this misincorporation can be inhibited by l-serine. Misincorporation of BMAA into human neuroproteins may shed light on putative associations between human exposure to BMAA produced by cyanobacteria and an increased incidence of ALS. © 2013 Dunlop et al.

Scott L.L.,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University | Downing S.,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University | Phelan R.R.,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University | Downing T.G.,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University | Downing T.G.,Institute for Ethnomedicine
Toxicon | Year: 2014

The most significant modulators of the cyanotoxins microcystin and β-N-methylamino-l-alanine in laboratory cyanobacterial cultures are the concentration of growth-medium combined nitrogen and nitrogen uptake rate. The lack of field studies that support these observations led us to investigate the cellular content of these cyanotoxins in cyanobacterial bloom material isolated from a freshwater impoundment and to compare these to the combined nitrogen availability. We established that these toxins typically occur in an inverse relationship in nature and that their presence is mainly dependent on the environmental combined nitrogen concentration, with cellular microcystin present at exogenous combined nitrogen concentrations of 29 μM and higher and cellular BMAA correlating negatively with exogenous nitrogen at concentrations below 40 μM. Furthermore, opposing nutrient and light gradients that form in dense cyanobacterial blooms may result in both microcystin and BMAA being present at a single sampling site. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Banack S.A.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Metcalf J.S.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Bradley W.G.,University of Miami | Cox P.A.,Institute for Ethnomedicine
Toxicon | Year: 2014

Cyanobacteria produce the neurotoxic amino acid β-N-methylamino-l- alanine (BMAA), which in contaminated marine waters has been found to accumulate in shellfish. Exposure to BMAA has been associated with an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease. Analysis of blinded samples found BMAA to be present in neuroproteins of individuals who died from ALS and ALS/PDC, but generally not in the brains of patients who died of causes unrelated to neurodegeneration or Huntington's disease, an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disease. We here report support for a link between a patient with ALS and chronic exposure to the cyanobacterial neurotoxin BMAA via shellfish consumption. The patient had frequently eaten lobsters collected in Florida Bay for approximately 30 years. LC-MS/MS analysis of two lobsters which this ALS patient had placed in his freezer revealed BMAA at concentrations of 27 and 4 μg/g, respectively, as well as the presence of 2,4-diaminobutyric acid (DAB), a BMAA isomer. Two additional lobsters recently collected from Florida Bay also contained the neurotoxins BMAA and DAB. These data suggest that invertebrates collected in water where cyanobacterial blooms are present, if consumed, may result in direct human exposure to these neurotoxic amino acids. The data support the assertion that prolonged exposure to BMAA may have played a role in the etiology of ALS in this patient. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Mondo K.,University of Miami | Hammerschlag N.,University of Miami | Basile M.,University of Miami | Pablo J.,University of Miami | And 2 more authors.
Marine Drugs | Year: 2012

Sharks are among the most threatened groups of marine species. Populations are declining globally to support the growing demand for shark fin soup. Sharks are known to bioaccumulate toxins that may pose health risks to consumers of shark products. The feeding habits of sharks are varied, including fish, mammals, crustaceans and plankton. The cyanobacterial neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) has been detected in species of free-living marine cyanobacteria and may bioaccumulate in the marine food web. In this study, we sampled fin clips from seven different species of sharks in South Florida to survey the occurrence of BMAA using HPLC-FD and Triple Quadrupole LC/MS/MS methods. BMAA was detected in the fins of all species examined with concentrations ranging from 144 to 1836 ng/mg wet weight. Since BMAA has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases, these results may have important relevance to human health. We suggest that consumption of shark fins may increase the risk for human exposure to the cyanobacterial neurotoxin BMAA.

Metcalf J.S.,University of Dundee | Metcalf J.S.,Institute for Ethnomedicine | Metcalf J.S.,University of Mississippi | Richer R.,Cornell College | And 2 more authors.
Science of the Total Environment | Year: 2012

There have been few studies concerning cyanotoxins in desert environments, compared with the multitude of studies of cyanotoxins in aquatic environments. However, cyanobacteria are important primary producers in desert environments, where after seasonal rains they can grow rapidly both stabilising and fertilising arid habitats. Samples of cyanobacteria from wadis - dry, ephemeral river beds - and sabkha - supertidal salt flats - in Qatar were analysed for the presence of microcystins, nodularin, anatoxin-a, cylindrospermopsin and anatoxin-a(S). Microcystins were detected by HPLC-PDA and ELISA at concentrations between 1.5 and 53.7ngg -1 dry wt of crust. PCR products for the mycD gene for microcystin biosynthesis were detected after amplification of DNA from desert crust samples at two out of three sample sites. The presence of anatoxin-a(S) was also indicated by acetylcholine esterase inhibition assay. As a function of area of desert crust, microcystin concentrations were between 3 and 56μgm -2. Based on the concentration of microcystins detected in crust, with reference to the published inhalation NOAEL and LOAEL values via nasal spray inhalation of purified microcystin-LR in aqueous solution, and the amount of dust potentially inhaled by a person from these dried crusts, the dose of microcystins could exceed a calculated TDI value of 1-2ngkg -1day -1 for an average adult. The presence of microcystins, and potentially of anatoxin-a(S), in desert crusts has important implications for human health. Further studies are required to monitor desert dust storms for the presence of cyanotoxins. An understanding of the risks of inhaling particles containing cyanotoxins is also warranted. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

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