In recent years, cyanobacterial blooms have dramatically increased and become an
ecological disaster worldwide. Cyanobacteria are also known to produce a wide variety of toxic
secondary metabolites, i.e. cyanotoxins. Microcystins (MCs), a group of cyclic heptapeptides, are
considered to be one of the most common and dangerous cyanobacterial toxins. MCs can be
incorporated into the cells via organic anion transporting polypeptides (Oatps). It’s widely accepted
that inhibition of protein phosphatases (PPs) and induction of oxidative stress are the main toxic
mechanisms of MCs. MCs are able to induce a variety of toxic cellular effects, including DNA damage, cytoskeleton
disruption, mitochondria dysfunction, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) disturbance and cell cycle deregulation, all of which
can contribute to apoptosis/programmed cell death. This review aimed to summarize the increasing data regarding the
intracellular biochemical and molecular mechanisms of MC-induced toxicity and cell death.
Keywords: Apoptosis, cell death, cytoskeleton, genotoxicity, microcystin, mitochondria, oxidative stress, protein phosphatase.
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