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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Jun;74(12):3710-7. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02645-07. Epub 2008 Apr 25.

Morphological and genetic evidence that the cyanobacterium Lyngbya wollei (Farlow ex Gomont) Speziale and Dyck encompasses at least two species.

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Institute of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 3431 Arendell Street, Morehead City, NC 28557, USA.


Dense blooms of the cyanobacterium Lyngbya wollei are increasingly responsible for declining water quality and habitat degradation in numerous springs, rivers, and reservoirs. This research represents the first molecular phylogenetic analysis of L. wollei in comparison with the traditional morphological characterization of this species. Specimens were collected from several springs in Florida and a reservoir in North Carolina. Segments of the small-subunit (SSU) rRNA and nifH genes were PCR amplified, cloned, and sequenced. The phylogenetic analysis of the SSU rRNA gene revealed sequences that fell into three distinct subclusters, each with >97% sequence similarity. These were designated operational taxonomic unit 1 (OTU1), OTU2, and OTU3. Similarly, the nifH sequences fell into three distinct subclusters named S1, S2, and S3. When either bulk samples or individual filaments were analyzed, we recovered OTU1 with S1, OTU2 with S2, and OTU3 with S3. The coherence between the three SSU rRNA gene and nifH subclusters was consistent with genetically distinct strains or species. Cells associated with subclusters OTU3 and S3 were significantly wider and longer than those associated with other subclusters. The combined molecular and morphological data indicate that the species commonly identified as L. wollei in the literature represents two or possibly more species. Springs containing OTU3 and S3 demonstrated lower ion concentrations than other collection sites. Geographical locations of Lyngbya subclusters did not correlate with residual dissolved inorganic nitrogen or phosphorus concentrations. This study emphasizes the need to complement traditional identification with molecular characterization to more definitively detect and characterize harmful cyanobacterial species or strains.

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