Cyanobacteria are able to produce several metabolites that have toxic effects on humans and animals. Among these cyanotoxins, the hepatotoxic microcystins (MC) occur frequently. The intracellular MC content produced by two strains of Microcystis aeruginosa, PCC7806 and PCC7820, and its production kinetics during the culture time were studied in order to elucidate the conditions that favour the growth and proliferation of these toxic strains. Intracellular MC concentrations measured by liquid chromatography (LC) coupled to electrospray ionization mass spectrometer (MS) were compared with those obtained by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) anti-Adda and protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) inhibition assays. It has been demonstrated there are discrepancies in the quantification of MC content when comparing ELISA and LC-MS results. However, a good correlation has been obtained between PP2A inhibition assay and LC-MS. Three MC were identified using LC-MS in the PCC7806 strain: MC-LR, demethylated MC-LR and a new variant detected for the first time in this strain, [L-MeSer7] MC-LR. In PCC7820, MC-LR, D-Asp3-MCLR, Dglu(OCH3)-MCLR, MC-LY, MC-LW and MC-LF were identificated. The major one was MC-LR in both strains, representing 81 and 79% of total MC, respectively. The total MC content in M. aeruginosa PCC7820 was almost three-fold higher than in PCC7806 extracts.

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