Microcystins are secondary metabolites produced by several freshwater, bloom-forming cyanobacterial species. Microcystin-producing cyanobacteria co-occur with a complex community of heterotrophic bacteria. Though conflicting, studies suggest that microcystins affect the physiology of heterotrophic bacteria by inducing oxidative stress and increasing cell envelope permeability. Based on these observations, we hypothesized that exposure to microcystin should induce differential expression in genes responding to oxidative and envelope stress and trigger shifts in metabolite pools. We tested this hypothesis by exposing Escherichia coli MG1655 to 1 and 10 mg/L microcystin-LR and monitored global changes to gene expression, cellular metabolite pools, and lipid composition using RNA-sequencing and UPLC-MS. Contrary to reported studies, we observed no evidence that microcystin-LR induced oxidative or cell envelope stress in E. coli under the tested conditions. Our results suggest a potential difference in mechanism by which microcystin-LR interacts with heterotrophic bacteria vs. cyanobacteria.
Martin, Robbie M., Stephen P. Dearth, Gary R. LeCleir, Shawn R. Campagna, Elizabeth M. Fozo, Erik R. Zinser, and Steven W. Wilhelm. “Microcystin-LR Does Not Induce Alterations to Transcriptomic or Metabolomic Profiles of a Model Heterotrophic Bacterium.” PLOS One 12 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0189608.