We investigated the ability of the ichthyotoxic haptophyte Prymnesium parvum to use sewage-originated nutrients applying stable carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) isotope techniques. P. parvum was cultured under N and phosphorus (P) sufficient and deficient conditions in either sewage effluent-based medium or in a nitrate- and phosphate-based control. Cell densities and toxicities were monitored and stable carbon N isotopes signatures (delta C-13 and delta N-15) of P. parvum and the sewage effluent analysed. Nitrogen and P sufficient cultures achieved the highest biomass followed by P and N deficient cultures, regardless of sewage effluent additions. The P deficient cultures with sewage effluent had higher toxicity, estimated as haemolytic activity (9.4 +/- 0 x 10(-5) mg Saponin equiv. cell(-1)) compared to the P deficient control and to all N deficient and NP sufficient cultures. Nutrient deficient conditions had no effect on the cell delta N-15, but a decreasing effect on delta C-13 in the inorganic N deficient treatment. Growth in sewage-based media was followed by a substantial increase in the cell delta N-15 (10.4-16.1.60) compared to the control treatments (2.4-4.9%o), showing that P. parvum is capable of direct use of sewage-originated N, inorganic as well as organic. Uptake of terrestrial derived C in the sewage treatments was confirmed by a decrease in cell delta C-13, implying that P. parvum is able to utilize organic nutrients in sewage effluent. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.