Cyanotoxins from black band disease of corals and from other Coral Reef environments

Miroslav Gantar*, Raju Sekar, Laurie L. Richardson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Many cyanobacteria produce cyanotoxins, which has been well documented from freshwater environments but not investigated to the same extent in marine environments. Cyanobacteria are an obligate component of the polymicrobial disease of corals known as black band disease (BBD). Cyanotoxins were previously shown to be present in field samples of BBD and in a limited number of BBD cyanobacterial cultures. These toxins were suggested as one of the mechanisms contributing to BBD-associated coral tissue lysis and death. In this work, we tested nine cyanobacterial isolates from BBD and additionally nine isolated from non-BBD marine sources for their ability to produce toxins. The presence of toxins was determined using cell extracts of laboratory grown cyanobacterial cultures using ELISA and the PP2A assay. Based on these tests, it was shown that cyanobacterial toxins belonging to the microcystin/nodularin group were produced by cyanobacteria originating from both BBD and non-BBD sources. Several environmental factors that can be encountered in the highly dynamic microenvironment of BBD were tested for their effect on both cyanobacterial growth yield and rate of toxin production using two of the BBD isolates of the genera Leptolyngbya and Geitlerinema. While toxin production was the highest under mixotrophic conditions (light and glucose) for the Leptolyngbya isolate, it was highest under photoautotrophic conditions for the Geitlerinema isolate. Our results show that toxin production among marine cyanobacteria is more widespread than previously documented, and we present data showing three marine cyanobacterial genera (Phormidium, Pseudanabaena, and Spirulina) are newly identified as cyanotoxin producers. We also show that cyanotoxin production by BBD cyanobacteria can be affected by environmental factors that are present in the microenvironment associated with this coral disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)856-864
Number of pages9
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes

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