Mesohaline conditions represent the threshold for oxidative stress, cell death and toxin release in the cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa

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As aquatic ecosystems become increasingly affected by hydrologic alterations, drought and sea level rise a need exists to better understand the biological effects of elevated salinity on toxigenic cyanobacteria such as Microcystis aeruginosa. This study investigated the impacts of oligohaline/low mesohaline conditions and exposure time on selected physiological and biochemical responses in M. aeruginosa including cell viability, oxidative stress, antioxidant responses, in addition to microcystin synthesis and release into the surrounding environment. M. aeruginosa was able to grow in most test salinity treatments (1.4–10 ppt), as supported by cell abundance data and chlorophyll-a (chl-a) concentrations. Physiological data showed that after certain salinity thresholds (∼7ppt) were surpassed, salt stress had cascading effects, such as increased ROS production and lipid peroxidation, potentiating the decline in cellular viability. Furthermore, elevated salinity induced oxidative stress which was concomitant with a decrease in cell abundance, chl-a concentration and photochemical efficiency in the 7–10 ppt treatments. M. aeruginosa did not synthesize microcystins (MCs) in response to increased saline conditions, and mcy-D expression was not correlated with either salinity treatment or extracellular MC concentrations, indicating that salinity stress could inhibit toxin production and that released toxins were likely synthesized prior to exposure. Additionally, extracellular MC concentrations were not correlated with decreased cellular integrity, as evidenced by SYTOX analyses, suggesting that toxins may be released through mechanisms other than cellular lysis. Results from this study support that M. aeruginosa can survive with limited negative impacts to cellular structure and function up to a certain threshold between 7–10 ppt. However, after these thresholds are surpassed, there is radical decline in cell health and viability leading to toxin release. This work underscores the importance of understanding the balance between ROS production and antioxidant capacities when assessing the fate of M. aeruginosa under mesohaline conditions.

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Aquatic Toxicology



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