Leopold L. Ilag, Elena Gorokhova, Agnes Karlsson, Nadezda Zguna and Liying Jiang at Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry
Elena Gorokhova, Leopold L. Ilag, Agnes Karlsson, Liying Jiang and Nadezda Zguna, Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry at Stockholm University.

How would you describe your project in a few sentences?

We work with the neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), which has been found in a variety of aquatic environments around the globe and is linked to several neurodegenerative diseases. This project aims to establish the BMAA distribution in pelagic and benthic trophic pathways in the northern Baltic proper.

What are your most important results, and for whom are they particularly useful?

Earlier studies indicate benthic component to be more important for BMAA transfer in the Baltic, which is counter-intuitive, because of the pelagic origin (algae and cyanobacteria) of this compound. For the quantitative analysis of BMAA using UHPLC-MS/MS, a collection of samples was obtained from ACESx Unit and the Swedish Museum of Natural History. The samples represent pelagic (seston, zooplankton, sprat and herring) and benthic (sediment, various invertebrate species, perch and flounder) food webs. According to our preliminary results, BMAA levels in all tested samples were very low (<10 ppb); further analyses will, however, be conducted. In parallel with analyzing samples using the established method, we are developing new methods and improving sample preparation techniques.

How can it assist an ecosystem-based management of the marine environment?

Establishing the relative importance of pelagic vs. benthic pathways of BMAA is important for understanding of sources and vectors of this toxin in the Baltic Sea ecosystem. This knowledge is instrumental for assessing its potential impact on the food webs and for human exposure. The data on BMAA levels in the environment and body burden across many species can be used for modelling BMAA distribution and, ultimately, for ecosystem-based management of BMAA producers. New analytical methods that we develop will improve assessment not only of BMAA but also of other algal toxins in the Baltic Sea ecosystem.​