The dynamics of toxic microcystis strains and microcystin production in two hypertrofic South African reservoirs
Conradie, Karin Ronel
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The South African impoundments of Hartbeespoort and Roodeplaat experience excessive blooms of Microcystis species each year. Microcystins, produced primarily by strains of cyanobacteria belonging to the genera Microcystis, Anabaena and Planktothrix, are harmful cyanobacterial hepatotoxins. These bloom-forming cyanobacteria form toxic and non-toxic strains that co-occur and are visually indistinguishable, but can be identified and quantified molecularly. We described the relationships between microcystin production and the genotypic composition of the Microcystis community involved together with environmental conditions in both the Roodeplaat and Hartbeespoort reservoirs using quantitative real time PCR. DNA copy number of the Microcystis-specific 16S rRNA and toxin biosynthesis genes, mcyE and mcyB, were measured. Planktothrix spp. occurred in both reservoirs during autumn, but no toxin-producing species was present as measured with mcyE specific primers, whereas both toxic and non-toxic strains of Microcystis were recorded in both reservoirs, with Microcystis spp. dominating in the summer months. Water-surface temperature correlated strongly with microcystin concentration, mcyE and mcyB copy number. Microcystin production was associated by temperatures higher than 23 °C. This suggests that should current environmental trends persist with surface water temperatures continuing to rise and more and more nutrients continued to be loaded into fresh water systems toxic Microcystis may outgrow non-toxic Microcystis and synthesise even more microcystins.