Lake Erie Microcystis: relationship between microcystin production, dynamics of genotypes and environmental parameters in a large lake

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Cyanobacteria of genus Microcystis sp. have been commonly found in Lake Erie waters during recent summer seasons. In an effort to elucidate relationships between microcystin production, genotypic composition of Microcystis community and environmental parameters in a large lake ecosystem, we collected DNA samples and environmental data during a three-year (2003–2005) survey within Lake Erie and used the data to perform a series of correlation analyses. Cyanobacteria and Microcystis genotypes were quantified using quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR). Our data show that Microcystis in Lake Erie forms up to 42% of all cyanobacteria, and that Microcystis exists as a mixed population of potentially toxic and (primarily) non-toxic genotypes. In the entire lake, the total abundance of Microcystis as well as the abundance of microcystin-producing Microcystis is strongly correlated with the abundance of cyanobacteria suggesting that Microcystis is a significant component of the cyanobacterial community in Lake Erie during summer seasons. The proportion of total Microcystis of all cyanobacteria was strongly linked to the microcystin concentrations, while the percentage of microcystin-producing genotypes within Microcystis population showed no correlation with microcystin concentrations. Correlation analysis indicated that increasing total phosphorus concentrations correlate strongly with increasing microcystin concentrations as well as with the total abundance of Microcystis and microcystin-producing Microcystis.

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