Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

The effects of environmental factors on biomass and microcystin production by the freshwater cyanobacterial genera Microcystis and Anabaena

Jaana Vaitomaa

Doctoral dissertation, June 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Applied Chemistry and Microbiology, Division of Microbiology.

Several cyanobacterial genera produce the hepatotoxins, microcystins. Microcystins are produced only in cells that have microcystin synthetase gene (mcy) clusters, which encode enzyme complexes involved in microcystin biosynthesis. Microcystin-producing and nonmicrocystin-producing genotypes of single cyanobacterial genus may occur simultaneously in situ. Previously, the effects of environmental factors on the growth and microcystin production of cyanobacteria have mainly been studied by means of isolated cyanobacteria cultures in the laboratory. Studies in the field have been difficult, owing to the lack of methods to identify and quantify the different genotypes.

In this study, genus-specific microcystin synthetase E (mcyE) gene primers were designed and a method to identify and quantify the mcyE copy numbers was developed and used in situ. Microcystis and Anabaena mcyE genes were observed in two Finnish lakes. Microcystis appeared to be the most abundant microcystin producer in Lake Tuusulanjärvi and in one basin of Lake Hiidenvesi. Because the most potent microcystin-producing genus of a lake can be identified, it will be possible in the future to design genus-targeted strategies for lake restoration.

Effects of P and N concentrations on the biomass of microcystin-producing and nonmicrocystin-producing Microcystis strains and an Anabaena strain were studied in cultures. P and N concentrations and their combined effect increased cyanobacterial biomass of all Microcystis strains. The biomass of microcystin-producing Microcystis was higher than that of nonmicrocystin-producing strains at high nutrient concentrations. The P concentration increased Anabaena biomass, but the effect of N concentration was statistically insignificant for growth yield, probably due to the ability of the genus to fix molecular N2. P and N concentrations and combined nutrients caused an increase in cellular microcystin concentrations of the Microcystis strain cultivated in chemostat cultures.

Cyanobacteria are able to hydrolyse nutrients from organic matter through extracellular enzyme activities. Leucine aminopeptidase (LAP) activity was observed in an axenic N2-fixing Anabaena strain grown in batch cultures. The P concentration caused a statistically significant increase in LAP activity, whereas the effect of N concentration was insignificant. The highest LAP activities were observed in the most eutrophic basins of Lake Hiidenvesi. LAP activity probably originated mostly from attached heterotrophic bacteria and less from cyanobacteria.

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Last updated 12.06.2006

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