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Cyanobacteria in Arctic and Antarctic freshwaters: their diversity and toxicity





Julia Kleinteich

Division for Genomics & Microbial Diversity, Dept. Life Sciences, NHM


Friday 12 July 11:00

Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)


Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic bacteria with a worldwide distribution. They thrive in extreme environments and represent the predominant primary producers in freshwater streams, ponds, and lakes of the high polar regions. Cyanobacterial mats are the nutritional basis and micro‐habitat for several other types of organisms (primarily proto‐ and metazoans). Because of their simple trophic structure and sensitivity to climate change, cyanobacterial mats are an ideal model system for the exploration of climate induced changes in the polar regions. Cyanobacteria also synthesize multiple secondary metabolites, some of which are toxic to most higher organisms, including humans. On a worldwide scale toxin production appears to be increasing, possibly as a consequence of a warming climate. Here we describe the diversity of cyanobacterial communities from the Arctic and the Antarctic using a combination of automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) and 454-sequening. We also demonstrate that different cyanobacterial toxins (Saxitoxin, Microcystin, and Cylindrospermopsin) are present in these habitats; two cyanobacterial toxins were recorded for the first time by ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay) and other analytical methods. We will also discuss results from temperature-controlled laboratory studies on cyanobacterial mats to evaluate the potential effect of climate change on polar cyanobacterial diversity and toxin production.



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