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Adv Appl Microbiol. 2009;67:109-29. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2164(08)01004-6.

Bioremediation of cyanotoxins.

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School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen AB25 1HG, UK.


Cyanobacteria are a diverse group of mainly aquatic microorganisms which occur globally. Eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) of water bodies, often as a result of human activities, results in prolific grow of cyanobacteria that develop into a thick scum or bloom. Many of these blooms are toxic due to the production of hepatotoxins (microcystins and cylindrospermopsin) and/or neurotoxins (saxitoxins and anatoxins) posing a serious health hazard to humans and animals. The presence of these cyanotoxins is of particular concern in drinking water supplies where conventional water treatment often fails to eliminate them. Hence, there is significant interest in water treatment strategies that ensure the removal of cyanotoxins, with the exploitation of microbes being on such possible approach. As naturally occurring compounds it is assumed that these toxins are readily biodegraded. Furthermore, there is no significant evidence of their accumulation in the environment and their relative stable under a wide range of physico-chemical conditions, suggests biodegradation is the main route for their natural removal from the environment. Microcystins, as the most commonly occurring toxins, have been the most widely studied and hence form the main focus here. The review provides an overview of research into the biodegradation of cyanotoxin, including evidence for natural bioremediation, screening and isolation of toxin biodegrading bacteria, genetic and biochemical elucidation of a degradation pathway along with attempts to harness them for bioremediation through bioactive water treatment processes.

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