Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Ambrose Furey


The Azaspiracids are a class of polyether marine biotoxins that present a significant health risk to consumers of shellfish. Since their discovery in the late 1990s several human intoxications have been reported, and traced to Irish shellfish farms resulting in closures or harvest rejections. As such incidents involving azaspiracid shellfish poisoning have a major socio-economic impact on communities that rely on shellfish farming revenues.

Recent evidence suggests that azaspiracid poisoning events may become more commonplace. With this increased risk the understanding of azaspiracids mode of action and biological targets becomes crucial. To support these endeavours effective analytical methods need to be developed, despite the current lack of pure reference standard.

This thesis presents a route to the rapid isolation of purified azaspiracid toxins. The application of liquid-chromatography and mass-spectrometric techniques allowed the determination of azaspiracid toxins at each step of the isolation process, and characterisation of novel, previously unseen structural variations in the azaspiracid toxins. A new location of azaspiracid intoxicated shellfish is reported also, suggesting the azaspiracids are of global significance in toxin monitoring programs. Reported herein is the first evidence of azaspiracid in human clinical samples. Multiple mass spectral technologies were applied to the identification of azaspiracid toxins in complex biological matrices.


Submitted to the Higher Education & Training Awards Council (HETAC) for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy October 2009

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