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Microb Ecol. 2006 Feb;51(2):154-65. Epub 2006 Jan 31.

Toxic Microcystis is widespread in Lake Erie: PCR detection of toxin genes and molecular characterization of associated cyanobacterial communities.

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Department of Microbiology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA.


During the past decade, algae blooms, which include the toxic cyanobacterium Microcystis, have reoccurred in the Laurentian Great Lakes, most commonly in the western basin of Lake Erie. Whereas the western basin is the most impacted by toxic Microcystis in Lake Erie, there has historically been little effort focused on identifying the spatial distribution of Microcystis throughout this lake. To address this lack of knowledge, we have employed a polymerase-chain-reaction-based detection of genes required for synthesis of the toxin microcystin (mcyD and mcyB), as well as 16S rDNA fragments specific to either all Microcystis or all cyanobacteria. Using a multiplex approach, we tested 21 samples from 13 field stations and found that toxigenic Microcystis were present in the western and eastern basins in the summers of 1999, 2000, and 2002 and the central basin in 1999 and 2002. This is the most extensive distribution of Microcystis reported in Lake Erie. Clone libraries (16S rDNA) of these cyanobacterial communities were generated from 7 of the 13 field stations (representing all three basins) to partially characterize this microbial community. These libraries were shown to be dominated by sequences assigned to the Synechococcus and Cyanobium phylogenetic cluster, indicating the importance of picoplankton in this large lake system.

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