Harmful algae and their potential impacts on the coastal ecosystem: growth and toxin production dynamics

Pezzolesi, Laura (2011) Harmful algae and their potential impacts on the coastal ecosystem: growth and toxin production dynamics, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Scienze ambientali: tutela e gestione delle risorse naturali, 23 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/3652.
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The main goal of the present thesis was to study some harmful algal species which cause blooms in Italian coastal waters, leading to consequences for human health, coastal ecosystem, fishery and tourism. In particular, in the first part of this thesis the toxicity of Adriatic strains of the raphidophyte Fibrocapsa japonica was investigated. Despite several hypotheses have been proposed for the toxic mechanism of the raphidophytes, especially for the species Chattonella antiqua and C. marina, which have been studied more extensively, just a few studies on the toxic effects of these species for different organisms were reported. Moreover, a careful reading of the literature evidenced as any ichthyotoxic events reported worldwide can be linked to F. japonica blooms. Although recently several studies were performed on F. japonica strains from the USA, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, and France in order to characterize their growth and toxicity features, the work reported in this thesis results one of the first investigation on the toxic effects of F. japonica for different organisms, such as bacteria, crustaceans and fish. Mortality effects, together with haemolysis of fish erythrocytes, probably due to the relatively high amount of PUFAs produced by this species, were observed. Mortality for fish, however, was reported only at a high cell density and after a long exposition period (9-10 days); moreover a significant increase of H2O2 obtained in the tanks where sea basses were exposed to F. japonica was also relevant. This result may justify the absence of ichthyotoxic events in the Italian coasts, despite F. japonica blooms detected in these areas were characterized by high cell densities. This work reports also a first complete characterization of the fatty acids produced and extracellularly released by the Adriatic F. japonica, and results were also compared with the fatty acid profile of other strains. The absence of known brevetoxins in F. japonica algal extracts was also highlighted, leading to the hypothesis that the toxicity of F. japonica may be due to a synergic effect of PUFAs and ROS. Another microalgae that was studied in this thesis is the benthic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis cf. ovata. This species was investigated with the aim to investigate the effect of environmental parameters on its growth and toxicity. O. cf. ovata, in fact, shows different blooming periods along the Italian coasts and even the reported toxic effects are variable. The results of this work confirmed the high variability in the growth dynamic and toxin content of several Italian strains which were isolated in recent years along the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas. Moreover, the effects of temperature and salinity on the behaviour of the different isolates are in good agreement with the results obtained from field surveys, which evidence as the environmental parameters are important factors modulating O. cf. ovata proliferation. Another relevant result that was highlighted is the anomaly in the production of palytoxin-like compounds reported by one of the studied isolate, in particular the one isolated in 2008 in Ancona (Adriatic Sea). Only this strain reported the absence of two (ovatoxin-b and –c) of the five ovatoxins so far known in the toxin profile and a different relative abundance of the other toxins. The last aspect that was studied in this thesis regards the toxin biosythesis. In fact, toxins produced (palytoxin-like compounds) or supposed to be produced (brevetoxin-like compounds) by O. cf. ovata and F. japonica, respectively, are polyketides, which are highly oxygenated compounds synthesized by complex enzymes known as polyketide synthase (PKS) enzymes. These enzymes are multi-domain complexes that structurally and functionally resemble the fatty acid synthases (FASs). This work reports the first study of PKS proteins in the dinoflagellates O. cf. ovata, C. monotis and in the raphidophyte F. japonica. For the first time some PKSs were identified in these species, confirming the presence of PKS proteins predicted by the in silico translation of the transcripts found in K. brevis also in other species. The identification of O. cf. ovata PKSs and the localization of the palytoxin-like compounds produced by this dinoflagellate in a similar location (chloroplast) as that observed for other dinoflagellate and cyanobacterial toxins provides some indication that these proteins may be involved in polyketide biosynthesis. However, their potential function as fatty acid synthases cannot be ruled out, as plant fatty acid synthesis also occurs within chloroplasts. This last hypothesis is also supported by the fact that in all the investigated species, and in particular in F. japonica, PKS proteins were present. Therefore, these results provide an important contribution to the study of the polyketides and of the involvement of PKS proteins in the toxin biosynthesis.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Pezzolesi, Laura
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze della terra e dell'ambiente
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
harmful algae toxins fibrocapsa japonica ostreopsis toxicity poliketide biosynthesis growth
Data di discussione
9 Maggio 2011

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