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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Nov 1;42(21):8027-32.

Isolation and characterization of the gene associated with geosmin production in cyanobacteria.

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  • 1Australian Water Quality Centre, SA Water Corporation, Salisbury, SA 5108, Australia.


Geosmin is a secondary metabolite responsible for earthy tastes and odors in potable water supplies. Geosmin continues to be a challenge to water utility management regimes and remains one of the most common causes of consumer complaints, as the taste of "dirty" water may suggest a failed disinfection regime and that the water may be unsafe to drink. Although cyanobacteria have been reported to be largely responsible for these taste and odor events, the answer as to how or why geosmin is produced has eluded researchers. We describe here for the first time the mechanism by which geosmin is produced in a model cyanobacterium, Nostoc punctiforme PCC 73102 (ATCC 29133), which we demonstrate utilizes a single enzyme to catalyze the cyclization of farnesyl diphosphate to geosmin. Using this information, we have developed a PCR-based assay that allows the rapid detection of geosmin-producing cyanobacteria. This test may be utilized to confirm and track the emergence of taste and odor-producing cyanobacteria in any given water body and thus can be used as an early warning system by managers of water bodies that may suffer from adverse taste and odor episodes.

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