Variability and profiles of lipophilic toxins in bivalves from Great Britain during five and a half years of monitoring: azaspiracids and yessotoxins

Monika Dhanji-Rapkova, Alison O'Neill, Benjamin H. Maskrey, Lewis Coates, Sarah Swan, Mickael Teixeira Alves, Rebecca J. Kelly, Robert G. Hatfield, Stephanie J. Rowland-Pilgrim, Adam M. Lewis, Andrew D. Turner

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Cefas has been responsible for the delivery of official control biotoxin testing of bivalve molluscs from Great Britain for just over a decade. Liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometric (LC-MS/MS) methodology has been used for the quantitation of lipophilic toxins (LTs) since 2011. The temporal and spatial distribution of Okadaic acid group toxins and profiles in bivalves between 2011 and 2016 have been recently reported. Here we present data on the two other groups of regulated lipophilic toxins, azaspiracids (AZAs) and yessotoxins (YTXs), over the same period. The latter group has also been investigated for a potential link with Protoceratium reticulatum and Lingulodinium polyedra, both previously recognised as YTXs producing phytoplankton. On average, AZAs were quantified in 3.2% of all tested samples but notable inter-annual variation in abundance was observed. The majority of all AZA contaminated samples were found between July 2011 and August 2013 in Scotland, while only two, three-month long, AZA events were observed in 2015 and 2016 in the south-west of England. Maximum concentrations were generally reached in late summer or early autumn. Reasons for AZAs persistence during the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 winters are discussed. Only one toxin profile was identified, represented by both AZA1 and AZA2 toxins at an approximate ratio of 2:1, suggesting a single microalgal species was the source of AZAs in British bivalves. Although AZA1 was always the most dominant toxin, its proportion varied between mussels, Pacific oysters and surf clams. The YTXs were the least represented group among regulated LTs. YTXs were found almost exclusively on the south-west coast of Scotland, with the exception of 2013, when the majority of contaminated samples originated from the Shetland Islands. The highest levels were recorded in the summer months and followed a spike in Protoceratium reticulatum cell densities. YTX was the most dominant toxin in shellfish, further strengthening the link to P. reticulatum as the YTX source. Neither homo-YTX, nor 45-OH homo-YTX were detected throughout the monitored period. 45-OH YTX, thought to be a shellfish metabolite associated with YTX elimination, contributed on average 26% in mussels. Although the correlation between 45-OH YTX abundance and the speed of YTX depuration could not be confirmed, we noted the half-life of YTX was more than two-times longer in queen scallops, which contained 100% YTX, than in mussels. No other bivalve species were affected by YTXs. This is the first detailed evaluation of AZAs and YTXs occurrences and their profiles in shellfish from Great Britain over a period of multiple years.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101629
Number of pages18
JournalHarmful Algae
Early online date2 Jul 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jul 2019


  • Biotoxins
  • shellfish
  • Azaspiracids
  • Yessotoxins
  • Great Britain
  • Phytoplankton
  • Azadinium
  • Amphidoma
  • Lingulodinium
  • Protoceratium


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