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Environ Toxicol. 2004 Dec;19(6):571-7.

Physiological and biochemical analyses of microcystin-RR toxicity to the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus.

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Institute of Hydrobiology, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, Hubei 430072, People's Republic of China.


Freshwater Microcystis may form dense blooms in eutrophic lakes. It is known to produce a family of related cyclic hepatopeptides (microcystins, MC) that constitute a threat to aquatic ecosystems. Most toxicological studies of microcystins have focused on aquatic animals and plants, with few examining the possible effects of microcystins on phytoplankton. In this study we chose the unicellular Synechococcus elongatus (one of the most studied and geographically most widely distributed cyanobacteria in the picoplankton) as the test material and investigated the biological parameters: growth, pigment (chlorophyll-a, phycocyanin), photosynthetic activity, nitrate reductase activity, and protein and carbohydrate content. The results revealed that microcystin-RR concentrations above 100 microg x L(-1) significantly inhibited the growth of Synechococcus elongatus. In addition, a change in color of the toxin-treated algae (chlorosis) was observed in the experiments. Furthermore, MC-RR markedly inhibited the synthesis of the pigments chlorophyll-a and phycocyanin. A drastic reduction in photochemical efficiency of PSII (F(v)/F(m)) was found after a 96-h incubation. Changes in protein and carbohydrate concentrations and in nitrate reductase activity also were observed during the exposure period. This study aimed to evaluate the mechanisms of microcystin toxicity on a cyanobacterium, according to the physiological and biochemical responses of Synechococcus elongatus to different doses of microcystin-RR. The ecological role of microcystins as an allelopathic substance also is discussed in the article.

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