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Success for fishy scientist

19.07.2002


Scallops, oysters and mussels - the best of fare Scotland`s kitchens have resulted in a top Parisian award for a researcher from the University of Dundee. Matthew Gubbins is not a chef but a scientific expert on toxicity in shellfish.

Matthew (26) has scooped the Daniel Jouvance award for his work on how shellfish become toxic and then lose their toxicity again in the sea. Identifying these processes will allow the industry to monitor more closely when shellfish are non-toxic , ready for harvest and consumable.

The Daniel Jouvance scientific award is given annually to two scientists under the age of 30 working in marine biochemistry. This is yet another young scientist success story for the School of Life Sciences which boasts eight winners of the Colworth medal for scientists under 36. Matthew will be presented with his award in Paris this October.

Matt Gubbins began researching how paralytic shellfish toxins (PST) might be metabolised in marine organisms as the subject of his PhD, at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Dundee and Fisheries Research Services (FRS), Aberdeen. His initial studies identified an enzyme in the livers of salmon, which was increased in the presence of PST, suggesting it could play a role in metabolising these toxins. This enzyme (glutathione S-transferase) was studied both in salmon and bivalve shellfish, such as mussels, which were also found to contain increased levels of the enzyme when contaminated with PST. Another enzyme (sulphotransferase) in mussels was able to metabolise one of the PST toxins, but scallops, which are known to retain PST toxins for a longer period of time, did not demonstrate any evidence of being able to metabolise these toxins using such enzymes.

By studying the fate and effects of these natural compounds in fish and shellfish, Matt has established possible enzyme-level mechanisms for the detoxification of PST in fish and shellfish. This has advanced our understanding of the fate of these compounds in the marine environment and could open future possibilities for novel techniques of shellfish depuration (cleansing).

Caroline Petrie | AlphaGalileo
Further information:
http://www.dundee.ac.uk

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