Department Environmental Chemistry

Natural Toxins

Our ecosystems and drinking water resources are not only vulnerable towards anthropogenic pollutants. Natural toxins present an additional threat for which we still lack comprehensive risk assessment and management plans. Among the natural toxins from various kingdoms, those produced by aquatic organisms, such as cyanobacteria have a direct entry into our water resources.

Cyanobacterial bloom events conquered freshwater resources across the globe, yet the potential risk of many cyanobacterial metabolites remains mostly unknown. Only microcystins, one class of cyanopeptides, have been studied intensively and the wealth of evidence regarding exposure concentrations and toxicity led to their inclusion in water quality guidelines. However, cyanobacteria produce an large diversity of cyanopeptides beyond the class of microcystins. The question arises, whether the other cyanopeptides are in fact of no human and ecological concern or whether these compounds merely received (too) little attention thus far.

We focus specifically on:

  • advancement of analytical workflows to identify and quantify emerging toxins and bioactive metabolites
  • co-production dynamics of toxins and metabolites by bloom-forming cyanobacteria
  • environmental fate processes of toxins in surface waters and engineered systems
  • adverse lethal and sublethal effects towards aquatic organisms

More information on current project:


van Santen, J. A.; Poynton, E. F.; Iskakova, D.; McMann, E.; Alsup, T. A.; Clark, T. N.; Fergusson, C. H.; Fewer, D. P.; Hughes, A. H.; McCadden, C. A.; Parra, J.; Soldatou, S.; Rudolf, J. D.; Janssen, E. M. -L.; Duncan, K. R.; Linington, R. G. (2022) The natural products atlas 2.0: a database of microbially-derived natural products, Nucleic Acids Research, 50(D1), D1317-D1323, doi:10.1093/nar/gkab941, Institutional Repository
Natumi, R.; Dieziger, C.; Janssen, E. M. -L. (2021) Cyanobacterial toxins and cyanopeptide transformation kinetics by singlet oxygen and pH-dependence in sunlit surface waters, Environmental Science and Technology, 55(22), 15196-15205, doi:10.1021/acs.est.1c04194, Institutional Repository
Filatova, D.; Jones, M. R.; Haley, J. A.; Núñez, O.; Farré, M.; Janssen, E. M. -L. (2021) Cyanobacteria and their secondary metabolites in three freshwater reservoirs in the United Kingdom, Environmental Sciences Europe, 33, 29 (11 pp.), doi:10.1186/s12302-021-00472-4, Institutional Repository
Jones, M. R.; Pinto, E.; Torres, M. A.; Dörr, F.; Mazur-Marzec, H.; Szubert, K.; Tartaglione, L.; Dell'Aversano, C.; Miles, C. O.; Beach, D. G.; McCarron, P.; Sivonen, K.; Fewer, D. P.; Jokela, J.; Janssen, E. M. -L. (2021) CyanoMetDB, a comprehensive public database of secondary metabolites from cyanobacteria, Water Research, 196, 117017 (12 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.watres.2021.117017, Institutional Repository
Natumi, R.; Marcotullio, S.; Janssen, E. M. -L. (2021) Phototransformation kinetics of cyanobacterial toxins and secondary metabolites in surface waters, Environmental Sciences Europe, 33, 26 (13 pp.), doi:10.1186/s12302-021-00465-3, Institutional Repository
Natumi, R.; Janssen, E. M. -L. (2020) Cyanopeptide co-production dynamics beyond mirocystins and effects of growth stages and nutrient availability, Environmental Science and Technology, 54(10), 6063-6072, doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b07334, Institutional Repository
Egli, C. M.; Natumi, R. S.; Jones, M. R.; Janssen, E. M. -L. (2020) Inhibition of extracellular enzymes exposed to cyanopeptides, Chimia, 74(3), 122-128, doi:10.2533/chimia.2020.122, Institutional Repository
Janssen, E. M. -L. (2019) Cyanobacterial peptides beyond microcystins – a review on co-occurrence, toxicity, and challenges for risk assessment, Water Research, 151, 488-499, doi:10.1016/j.watres.2018.12.048, Institutional Repository