β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), a neurotoxic non-protein amino acid, plays a significant role as an environmental risk factor in neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease [1, 2]. BMAA producers occur globally, colonizing almost all habitats and represent species from distinct phytoplanktonic groups, i.e., cyanobacteria, diatoms, and dinoflagellates [3-5]. In addition bioaccumulated BMAA has been found in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems worldwide, both in invertebrate and vertebrate organisms [6, 7]. In the Baltic Sea, zooplankton, which naturally feed on cyanobacteria, contain clearly higher levels of BMAA than did the BMAA producers [7].  In addition, several fish tissues were found to contain up to 200 times higher concentrations of BMAA than did the cyanobacteria.

In the present work, phytoplankton samples from the West Greenland ecosystem will be screen for possible BMAA producers. Zooplankton samples will also be tested for BMAA, in order to distinguish a route of BMAA biotransfer to higher trophic levels.



  • Light microscopy
  • Protein extraction
  • UV-Visible Spectroscopy
  • Statistical analysis



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  2. Spencer, P.S., G.E. Kisby, and A.C. Ludolph, Long-latency neurodegenerative disease in the western Pacific. Geriatrics, 1991. 46 Suppl 1: p. 37-42.
  3. Cox, P.A., et al., Diverse taxa of cyanobacteria produce beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine, a neurotoxic amino acid. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2005. 102(14): p. 5074-8.
  4. Jiang, L., et al., Diatoms: a novel source for the neurotoxin BMAA in aquatic environments. PLoS One, 2014. 9(1): p. e84578.
  5. Lage, S., et al., BMAA in shellfish from two Portuguese transitional water bodies suggests the marine dinoflagellate Gymnodinium catenatum as a potential BMAA source. Aquat Toxicol, 2014. 152: p. 131-8.
  6. Banack, S.A. and P.A. Cox, Biomagnification of cycad neurotoxins in flying foxes: implications for ALS-PDC in Guam. Neurology, 2003. 61(3): p. 387-9.
  7. Jonasson, S., et al., Transfer of a cyanobacterial neurotoxin within a temperate aquatic ecosystem suggests pathways for human exposure. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2010. 107(20): p. 9252-7.



Dr. Sara Rydberg,

Sandra Lage,