Publications: Peer-reviewed journal articles (by staff)

The role of nitrogen and phosphorus in regulating Phormidium autumnale (Cyanobacteria) growth and anatoxin production

1 March, 2016

Heath MW, Wood SA, Young RG, Ryan KG 2016. The role of nitrogen and phosphorus in regulating Phormidium autumnale (Cyanobacteria) growth and anatoxin production. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 92(3): fiw021.

DOI link here


Benthic proliferations of the cyanobacteria Phormidium can cover many kilometres of riverbed. Phormidium can produce neurotoxic anatoxins and ingestion of benthic mats has resulted in numerous animal poisonings in the last decade. Despite this, there is a poor understanding of the environmental factors regulating growth and anatoxin production. In this study, the effects of nitrogen and phosphorus on the growth of two Phormidium strains (anatoxin-producing and non-anatoxin-producing) were examined in batch monocultures. Cell concentrations were significantly reduced under reduced nitrogen (ca. <0.100 mM) and phosphorus conditions (ca. <0.003 mM). Cell concentrations and maximum growth rates were higher for the non-anatoxin-producing strain in all treatments, suggesting there may be an energetic cost to toxin production. Cellular anatoxin concentrations were lowest (169 fg cell(-1)) under the high-nitrogen and high-phosphorus treatment. This supports the growth-differentiation balance hypothesis that suggests actively dividing and expanding cells are less likely to produce secondary-metabolites. Anatoxin quota was highest (>407 fg cell(-1)) in the reduced phosphorus treatments, possibly suggesting that it is produced as a stress response to growth limiting conditions. In all treatments there was a 4-5-fold increase in anatoxin quota in the lag growth phase, possibly indicating it may provide a physiological benefit during initial substrate colonization.