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Genetic, morphological, and toxicological variation among globally distributed strains of Nodularia (Cyanobacteria)

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 22:08 authored by Christopher BolchChristopher Bolch, Orr, PT, Jones, GJ, Blackburn, SI
Morphological, toxicological, and genetic variation was examined among 19 strains of Nodularia. The strains examined could be morphologically discriminated into four groups corresponding to N. spumigena Mertens, N. sphaerocarpa Bornet et Flahault, and two strains that did not clearly correspond to currently accepted Nodularia species. Genetic variation was examined using nucleotide sequencing of the phycocyanin intergenic spacer region (cpcBA-IGS) and RAPD-PCR. The PCR-RFLP of the cpcBA-IGS differentiated four genotypes corresponding to the four morphological groups. However, nucleotide sequencing of 598 bp of the 690-bp fragment showed that one of the three strains corresponding to N. sphaerocarpa (PCC 7804) was genetically divergent from the other two, suggesting that it constitutes a distinct species. Nucleotide variation within the morphospecies groups was limited (<1%), and all 14 Australian strains of N. spumigena possessed identical cpcBA-IGS sequences. The RAPD-PCR differentiated the same groups as the cpcBA sequencing and discriminated each of the seven different Australian populations of N. spumigena. Strains from within a bloom appeared genetically identical; however, strains isolated from different blooms could be separated into either a western or a southeastern Australian cluster, with one strain from western Australia showing considerable genetic divergence. The pattern of variation suggests that individual blooms of N. spumigena are clonal but also that Australian N. spumigena populations are genetically distinct from each other. Examination of genetic distance within and between blooms and within and between morphological groups showed clear genetic dicontinuities that, in combination with the cpcBA-IGS data, suggest that Nodularia contains genetically distinct morphospecies rather than a continuous cline of genetic variation. Furthermore, these morphospecies are genetically variable, exhibiting hierarchical patterns of genetic variation on regional and global scales. Production of the hepatotoxin nodularin was not restricted to one genetic lineage but was distributed across three of the five genotypic groups. A strain of N. spumigena from a nontoxic Australian population was found to fall within the range of genetic variation for other toxic Australian strains and appears to be a unique nontoxic strain that might have arisen by loss of toxin production capacity.


Publication title

Journal of Phycology








School of Natural Sciences


Blackwell Publishing Inc

Place of publication

350 Main St, Malden, USA, Ma, 02148

Rights statement

Copyright 1999 Phycological Society of America

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Coastal and estuarine systems and management not elsewhere classified

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