Biogeography and genetic diversity of toxin producing cyanobacteria in a Laurentian great lake

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisCollection of Articles


The North American Great Lakes are a vital source on a global scale, as they hold ~18 % of the potable water resources on our planet. Cyanobacteria of the genus Microcystis are commonly found in fresh water environments around the world, and since the mid-1990s also in Lake Erie. The reasons for the success for these potentially toxic cyanobacteria in Lake Erie are not completely understood. In this study we have applied modern molecular tools to analyze field samples to provide an insight into the genotypic composition and diversity of the Microcystis community in the past and present day Lake Erie. We have also analyzed a three-year data set to identify specific environmental factors that contribute to the abundance of Microcystis genotypes and microcystin production. In addition, in a laboratory-based study we examined the effect of nutrients on transcriptional activity of the microcystin synthetase gene mcyD. The results of this study suggest that, although toxic Microcystis form <10 % of the total cyanobacterial population in Lake Erie, the toxin-producing Microcystis community in Lake Erie is diverse, and that these populations are stabile on a time scale of decades. Sediments acting as a reservoir of Microcystis are likely contributing to the persistence of the population. Although Microcystis is the dominant microcystin producer in the lake, other microcystin-producing cyanobacteria were also found in spatially isolated regions of the lake. In Lake Erie microcystin production is correlated strongly with nutrient availability, whereas toxic Microcystis abundance is correlated with nutrient availability and water temperature. These observations, along with findings from culture based experiments, suggest decoupling of the factors governing proliferation of toxic cells and toxin production. iv
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages197
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (articles)

Publication series

PublisherCambridge University Press
ISSN (Print)0031-8191


Dive into the research topics of 'Biogeography and genetic diversity of toxin producing cyanobacteria in a Laurentian great lake'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this