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Seasonally Relevant Cool Temperatures Interact with N Chemistry to Increase Microcystins Produced in Lab Cultures of Microcystis aeruginosa NIES-843

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posted on 09.03.2018, 00:00 by Guotao Peng, Robbie M. Martin, Stephen P. Dearth, Xiaocun Sun, Gregory L. Boyer, Shawn R. Campagna, Sijie Lin, Steven W. Wilhelm
Freshwater cyanobacterial blooms are regularly formed by Microcystis spp., which are well-known producers of the hepatotoxin microcystin. The environmental factors that regulate microcystin synthesis remain unclear. We used reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR), metabolomics, and toxin profiling (both by LC-MS) to measure the response of Microcystis aeruginosa NIES-843 to nitrogen (N) concentration, N chemistry (nitrate versus urea), and a range of seasonally relevant temperatures. Growth rates at lower temperatures were slower but resulted in increased cellular microcystin content (quota), and at these lower temperatures, N concentration had no effect on toxin production. In contrast, at warmer temperatures, reduction in N concentration increased toxin production, especially when urea was supplied as the nitrogen source. Our culture results demonstrate how temperature may lead to physiological responses ranging from slow growing yet very toxic cells at cool temperatures, to faster growing but less-toxic cells at warmer temperatures. This response represents a key interaction in bloom dynamics. Capturing this phenomenon as a temperature-driven toxin phenotype incorporated into models might improve the ability to predict microcystin biosynthesis during cyanobacterial blooms.