Advance Warning of Cyanobacterial Toxicity

This report was produced for the Urban Water Research Association of Australia, a now discontinued research program.

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Advance Warning of Cyanobacterial Toxicity

Report No WSAA 108

March 1996


A rapid laboratory assay based on the inhibition of protein phosphatase activity has been developed for the routine monitoring of the microcystin class of cyanobacterial toxins. This test is capable of detecting toxin levels to <0.1ug microcystin-LR per litre of water, without sample concentration. It is therefore most suitable for advance warning of cyanobacterial toxicity.

The assay has been extensively tested and is now available as a commercial service. Several modifications have been designed and implemented as a result of this testing.

Using this assay, the existence of previously unreported endogenous cyanobacterial protein phosphatase and proteolytic activities has been demonstrated. These endogenous activities may lead to underestimation of toxin concentration and modifications to the assay have been developed.

The effectiveness of the assay in detecting unknown toxins or variants which cannot be detected by any other procedure (such as HPLC) has been demonstrated.

 Anon-radioactive assay has also been developed, which has the potential for further development as a field based test.

Irregular occurrences of readily accessible cyanobacterial blooms in the Hunter region throughout this project has prevented extensive analysis of algal hot-spots and conditions predisposing to toxicity. Sampling and testing is continuing such that information relating to objectives (ii) and (iii) is likely to be forthcoming in subsequent years.

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