Acute exposure to Pacific ciguatoxin reduces electroencephalogram activity and disrupts neurotransmitter metabolic pathways in motor cortex

Gajendra Kumar, Ngan Pan Bennett Au, Elva Ngai Yu Lei, Yim Ling Mak, Leo Lai Chan, Michael Hon Wah Lam, Leo Lai Chan, Paul Kwan Sing Lam, Chi Him Eddie Ma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) is a common human food poisoning caused by consumption of ciguatoxin (CTX)-contaminated fish affecting over 50,000 people worldwide each year. CTXs are classified depending on their origin from the Pacific (P-CTXs), Indian Ocean (I-CTXs), and Caribbean (C-CTXs). P-CTX-1 is the most toxic CTX known and the major source of CFP causing an array of neurological symptoms. Neurological symptoms in some CFP patients last for several months or years; however, the underlying electrophysiological properties of acute exposure to CTXs remain unknown. Here, we used CTX purified from ciguatera fish sourced in the Pacific Ocean (P-CTX-1). Delta and theta electroencephalography (EEG) activity was reduced remarkably in 2 h and returned to normal in 6 h after a single exposure. However, second exposure to P-CTX-1 induced not only a further reduction in EEG activities but also a 2-week delay in returning to baseline EEG values. Ciguatoxicity was detected in the brain hours after the first and second exposure by mouse neuroblastoma assay. The spontaneous firing rate of single motor cortex neuron was reduced significantly measured by single-unit recording with high spatial resolution. Expression profile study of neurotransmitters using targeted profiling approach based on liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry revealed an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in the motor cortex. Our study provides a possible link between the brain oscillations and neurotransmitter release after acute exposure to P-CTX-1. Identification of EEG signatures and major metabolic pathways affected by P-CTX-1 provides new insight into potential biomarker development and therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5590-5603
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number7
Early online date10 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • Ciguatera fish poisoning
  • Delta and theta power
  • Electroencephalography
  • Metabolomics
  • Neurotransmitters
  • Pacific ciguatoxin-1

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