Identification of genes implicated in toxin production in the cyanobacterium Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii

Mark Schembri, B.A. Neilan, C.P. Saint

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    Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii is a bloom-forming cyanobacterium found in both tropical and temperate climates which produces cylindrospermopsin, a potent hepatotoxic secondary metabolite. This organism is notorious for its association with a significant human poisoning incident on Palm Island, Australia, which resulted in the hospitalization of 148 people. We have screened 13 C. raciborskii isolates from various regions of Australia and shown that both toxic and nontoxic strains exist within this species. No association was observed between geographical origin and toxin production. Polyketide synthases (PKSs) and peptide synthetases (PSs) are enzymes involved in secondary metabolite biosynthesis in cyanobacteria. Putative PKS and PS genes from C. raciborskii strains AWT205 and CYPO2OB were identified by PCR using degenerate primers based on conserved regions within each gene. Examination of the strain-specific distribution of the PKS and PS genes in C. raciborskii isolates demonstrated a direct link between the presence of these two genes and the ability to produce cylindrospermopsin. Interestingly, the possession of these two genes was also linked. They were also identified in an Anabaena bergii isolate that was demonstrated to produce cylindrospermopsin. Taken together, these data suggest a likely role for these determinants in secondary metabolite and toxin production by C. raciborskii.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEnvironmental Toxicology
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)413-421
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


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