Screening for the presence of lipophilic marine biotoxins in shellfish samples using the neuro-2a bioassay

Bodero Baeza, Marcia; Bovee, Toine F.H.; Wang, S.; Hoogenboom, Ron L.A.P.; Klijnstra, Mirjam D.; Portier, Liza; Hendriksen, Peter J.M.; Gerssen, Arjen


The neuro-2a bioassay is considered as one of the most promising cell-based in vitro bioassays for the broad screening of seafood products for the presence of marine biotoxins. The neuro-2a assay has been shown to detect a wide array of toxins like paralytic shellfish poisons (PSPs), ciguatoxins, and also lipophilic marine biotoxins (LMBs). However, the neuro-2a assay is rarely used for routine testing of samples due to matrix effects that, for example, lead to false positives when testing for LMBs. As a result there are only limited data on validation and evaluation of its performance on real samples. In the present study, the standard extraction procedure for LMBs was adjusted by introducing an additional clean-up step with n-hexane. Recovery losses due to this extra step were less than 10%. This wash step was a crucial addition in order to eliminate false-positive outcomes due to matrix effects. Next, the applicability of this assay was assessed by testing a broad range of shellfish samples contaminated with various LMBs, including diarrhetic shellfish toxins/poisons (DSPs). For comparison, the samples were also analysed by LC-MS/MS. Standards of all regulated LMBs were tested, including analogues of some of these toxins. The neuro-2a cells showed good sensitivity towards all compounds. Extracts of 87 samples, both blank and contaminated with various toxins, were tested. The neuro-2a outcomes were in line with those of LC-MS/MS analysis and support the applicability of this assay for the screening of samples for LMBs. However, for use in a daily routine setting, the test might be further improved and we discuss several recommended modifications which should be considered before a full validation is carried out.