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The mouse bioassay for the detection of marine biotoxins in shellfish products is 40 years old and still in use. A full ban or total replacement of this in vivo test has been postponed because of the fear that current chemical-based detection methods could miss a new emerging toxin. In order to fully replace the mouse bioassay, more efforts are needed on the search for functional assays with specific endpoints. Gene expression elicited by diarrheic shellfish poisons in Caco-2 cells allowed us to determine three ‘DSP profiles’, i.e. OA/DTX, AZA-YTX and PTX profiles. Twelve marker genes were selected to envision the three profiles. qRT-PCR is relatively cheap and easy, and although its multiplex capacity is limited to 5 genes, this turned out to be sufficient to show the three expected profiles. The use of the multiplex magnetic bead-based assay turned out to be even a slightly better alternative, allowing the use of all twelve selected marker genes and 2 reference genes, and resulting in clear profiles with for some genes even higher induction factors as obtained by qRT-PCR. When analysing blank and contaminated shellfish samples with this multiplex magnetic bead-based assay, the contaminated samples could easily be distinguished from the blank samples, showing the expected profiles. This work is one step further on the final replacement of the mouse bioassay, e.g. by combining the neuro-2a bioassay for screening and detection with analytical chemical analyses and the multiplex magnetic bead-based assay for confirmation of known and unknown toxins respectively.
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