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Microbiology. 2005 May;151(Pt 5):1525-33.

Genetic identification of microcystin ecotypes in toxic cyanobacteria of the genus Planktothrix.

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Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Limnology, Mondseestrasse 9, A-5310 Mondsee, Austria.


Microcystins (MCs) are toxic heptapeptides which are synthesized by the filamentous cyanobacterium Planktothrix and other genera via non-ribosomal peptide synthesis. MCs share the common structure cyclo(-D-ala1-L-X2-D-erythro-beta-iso-aspartic acid3-L-Z4-adda5-D-Glu6-N-methyl-dehydroalanine7) [Adda; (2S, 3S, 8S, 9S)-3-amino-9-methoxy-2,6,8-trimethyl-10-phenyldeca-4,6-dienoic acid], in which numerous MC variants have been reported. In general, the variation in structure is due to different amino acid residues in positions 7, 2 and 4 within the MC molecule, which are thought to be activated by the adenylation domains mcyAAd1, mcyBAd1 and mcyCAd, respectively. It was the aim of the study (i) to identify MC ecotypes that differed in the production of specific MC variants and (ii) to correlate the genetic variation within adenylation domains with the observed MC variants among 17 Planktothrix strains. Comparison of the sequences of mcyAAd1 revealed two distinctive Ad-genotypes differing in base pair composition and the insertion of an N-methyl transferase (NMT) domain. The mcyAAd1 genotype with NMT (2854 bp) correlated with N-methyl-dehydroalanine and the mcyAAd1 genotype without NMT (1692 bp) correlated with dehydrobutyrine in position 7. Within mcyBAd1, a lower genetic variation (0-4 %) and an exclusive correlation between one Ad-genotype and homotyrosine as well as another Ad-genotype and arginine in position 2 was found. The sequences of mcyCAd were found to be highly similar (0-1 % dissimilarity) and all strains contained arginine in position 4. The results on adenylation domain polymorphism do provide insights into the evolutionary origin of adenylation domains in Planktothrix and may be combined with ecological research in order to provide clues about the abundance of genetically defined MC ecotypes in nature.

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