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Study of gene expression in common blue-green algae reveals what makes it bloom, toxic

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Posted July 25, 2013
Blue-green algae blooms formed by Microcystis. Credit: Scott Kishbaugh

Blue-green algae blooms formed by Microcystis. Credit: Scott Kishbaugh

If your local pond, lake, or watering hole is looking bright green this summer, chances are it has blue-green algae and it may be dangerous to you or your pets. A newly published study has used a novel approach to better understand why these algae form blooms and what makes them toxic.

Matthew Harke and Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, used global gene expression analysis of the most common blue-green algae, Microcystis, to uncover how it uses different types of nutrients to form blooms and what regulates the production of its toxin, microcystin. The study, entitled “Global transcriptional responses of the toxic cyanobacterium, Microcystis aeruginosa, to nitrogen stress, phosphorus stress, and growth on organic matter,” published in the July 23rd edition of the journal PLoS ONE, is the first to use this approach with this algae.

“Toxic blue-green algae blooms are a common phenomenon in freshwater lakes and ponds, particularly during summer and early fall,” says Dr. Gobler. “These algae can create various toxins that can harm humans, pets, and aquatic life.”

And the problem is worsening. “The distribution, frequency and intensity of these events have increased across the globe and in the US in places like the

Great Lakes and scientists have been struggling to determine why this is happening,” notes Gobler.

Read more at: Phys.org

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