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.
Blue-green algae blooms formed by Microcystis
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.
Individual algae cells so tiny—50 of them side by side span only the width of a single hair—that they may seem harmless. But when billions of blue green algae come together, they can be dangerous to humans and damaging to aquatic life. Human exposure to blue-green algal toxins can be through drinking water supply or direct contact with blooms via recreation.
This study grew the toxic blue-green algae known as Microcystis with high and low levels of different sources of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus and used high-throughput sequencing of its transcriptome to simultaneously evaluate the expression of all 6,300 of the genes in its genome. In doing so, the study revealed the sets of genes it uses to sustain blooms, specifically during summer when some types of nutrients can be in short supply, and yet Microcystis still grows quickly.
“This algae has a series of ‘gene pathways’ it can turn on to continue to grow rapidly, even as environmental conditions change,” said first author and doctoral student Matthew Harke. “We think this ability to quickly turn on and off different genes to grow when nitrogen or phosphorus levels are high or low and to use organic or inorganic nutrients may be a key to its success.”
An additional striking finding in the study was the ability of nitrogen to alter the toxicity of Microcystis. Scientists have long debated the relative importance of nitrogen and phosphorus in controlling blue-green algae blooms. “By examining all of the genes responsible for synthesizing the microcystin toxin, we were specifically able to see that these genes were turned off when the nitrogen supply of Microcystis ran out and that the cells contained less toxin,” said senior author, Dr. Christopher Gobler.
The findings of the study lend support to the notion that limiting nutrient input into lakes will restrict the intensity of blue-green algae blooms. The findings also demonstrated that lessening the input of both nitrogen and phosphorus may be needed to reduce the density and toxicity of these events.About Stony Brook University
About blue green algae: http://www-cyanosite.bio.purdue.edu/
Christopher Gobler | Newswise
A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
CWRU researchers find a chemical solution to shrink digital data storage
22.06.2017 | Case Western Reserve University
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.
New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
22.06.2017 | Life Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences