The presence of the cyanobacterial toxin microcystin in black band disease of corals

Laurie L. Richardson*, Raju Sekar, Jamie L. Myers, Miroslav Gantar, Joshua D. Voss, Longin Kaczmarsky, Elizabeth R. Remily, Gregory L. Boyer, Paul V. Zimba

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Black band disease (BBD) is a migrating, cyanobacterial dominated, sulfide-rich microbial mat that moves across coral colonies lysing coral tissue. While it is known that BBD sulfate-reducing bacteria contribute to BBD pathogenicity by production of sulfide, additional mechanisms of toxicity may be involved. Using HPLC/MS, the cyanotoxin microcystin was detected in 22 field samples of BBD collected from five coral species on nine reefs of the wider Caribbean (Florida Keys and Bahamas). Two cyanobacterial cultures isolated from BBD, Geitlerinema and Leptolyngbya sp. contained microcystin based on HPLC/MS, with toxic activity confirmed using the protein phosphatase inhibition assay. The gene mcyA from the microcystin synthesis complex was detected in two field samples and from both BBD cyanobacterial cultures. Microcystin was not detected in six BBD samples from a different area of the Caribbean (St Croix, USVI) and the Philippines, suggesting regional specificity for BBD microcystin. This is the first report of the presence of microcystin in a coral disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-187
Number of pages6
JournalFEMS Microbiology Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Black band disease
  • Coral disease
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Cyanotoxin
  • Microcystin

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