Phytoplankton produce a diversity of secondary metabolites that have deleterious effects on other organisms. Some of the most potent of these toxins affect neuronal function in animals. These algal neurotoxins bind selectively to specific receptors on ion transporters in neuronal cell membranes, altering their function and kinetic behaviour. The outcome of such toxin–transporter interactions is the disruption of cell signalling, leading to neurotoxicity through either excitatory or inhibitory mechanisms. Algal neurotoxins may affect non-neuronal cell types as well, but toxic effects are most pronounced in neuronal cells.

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