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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Sep;71(9):5177-81.

The microcystin composition of the cyanobacterium Planktothrix agardhii changes toward a more toxic variant with increasing light intensity.

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  • 1Aquatic Microbiology, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 127, 1018 WS Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The cyanobacterium Planktothrix agardhii, which is dominant in many shallow eutrophic lakes, can produce hepatotoxic microcystins. Currently, more than 70 different microcystin variants have been described, which differ in toxicity. In this study, the effect of photon irradiance on the production of different microcystin variants by P. agardhii was investigated using light-limited turbidostats. Both the amount of the mRNA transcript of the mcyA gene and the total microcystin production rate increased with photon irradiance up to 60 micromol m(-2) s(-1), but they started to decrease with irradiance greater than 100 micromol m(-2) s(-1). The cellular content of total microcystin remained constant, independent of the irradiance. However, of the two main microcystin variants detected in P. agardhii, the microcystin-DeRR content decreased twofold with increased photon irradiance, whereas the microcystin-DeLR content increased threefold. Since microcystin-DeLR is considerably more toxic than microcystin-DeRR, this implies that P. agardhii becomes more toxic at high light intensities.

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