Cylindrospermopsin (CYN) is a tricyclic guanidino alkaloid toxin produced by several cyanobacterial genera. It alters cellular functioning in eukaryotes, including animal and plant organisms. Over the past decades, more and more evidence shows its potential hazardous effects on animal and human health. In this review, we give a critical survey and interpretation of data currently available on its biochemical and consequently, cellular effects. CYN is considered to be a cytotoxin. Several reports suggest that it is a potent inhibitor of eukaryotic protein synthesis, though the exact mechanisms are not completely understood. Here we show that the biochemical changes induced by CYN are complex, possibly involving multiple modes of action. Glutathione metabolism and pyrimidine nucleotide synthesis is affected besides the proposed protein synthesis inhibition. Biochemical alterations lead to the following cellular/subcellular alterations both in animals and plants: (i) changes in cell division rates due to perturbations in chromatin and cytoskeleton; (ii) perturbations of structure and functioning of endomembranes including endoplasmic reticulum; (iii) general metabolic alterations leading to genotoxicity and programmed cell death/apoptosis. The underlying mechanisms and possible health consequences are discussed.
Keywords: Cylindrospermopsin, cyanobacteria, protein synthesis, cell cycle, endomembranes, cytoskeleton, programmed cell death.