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Domoic acid (DA), the neurotoxin that causes amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP), is a kainic acid analog, heterocyclic amino acid associated with certain harmful algal blooms.
In 1958, domoic acid was originally isolated from the red alga called "doumoi" or "hanayanagi" (Chondria armata) in Japan. "Doumoi" is used as an anthelmintic in Tokunoshima, Kagoshima. Domoic acid is also produced by diatoms of the genus Pseudo-nitzschia and the species Nitzschia navis-varingica.
Pseudo-nitzschia multiseries loses most of its ability to produce domoic acid when it is cultured axenically. However, domoic acid production recovers when bacteria from the original culture are reintroduced to axenic cultures, indicating a bacterial association with domoic acid production in this species.
Domoic acid is a structural analog of kainic acid and proline.
Considerable recent research has been carried out by the Marine Mammal Center and other scientific centers on the association of domoic acid-producing harmful algal blooms and neurological damage in marine mammals of the Pacific Ocean.
Domoic acid can bioaccumulate in marine organisms such as shellfish, anchovies, and sardines that feed on the phytoplankton known to produce this toxin. DA can accumulate in high concentrations in the tissues of these plankton feeders when the toxic phytoplankton itself is high in concentration in the surrounding waters.
In mammals, including humans, domoic acid acts as a neurotoxin, causing short-term memory loss, brain damage and, in severe cases, death. DA-producing algal blooms are associated with the phenomenon of amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). In marine mammals, domoic acid typically causes seizures and tremors. In the brain, domoic acid especially damages the hippocampus and amygdaloid nucleus. It damages the neurons by activating AMPA and kainate receptors, causing an influx of calcium. Although calcium flowing into cells is a normal event, the uncontrolled increase of calcium causes the cell to degenerate. Because the hippocampus may be severely damaged, short-term memory loss occurs.
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