Microcystin interferes with defense against high oxidative stress in harmful cyanobacteria

J. Merijn Schuurmans, Bregje W. Brinkmann, A. Katharina Makower, Elke Dittmann, Jef Huisman (Corresponding author), Hans C. P. Matthijs

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Harmful cyanobacteria producing toxic microcystins are a major concern in water quality management. In recent years, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) has been successfully applied to suppress cyanobacterial blooms in lakes. Physiological studies, however, indicate that microcystin protects cyanobacteria against oxidative stress, suggesting that H2O2 addition might provide a selective advantage for microcystin-producing (toxic) strains. This study compares the response of a toxic Microcystis strain, its non-toxic mutant, and a naturally non-toxic Microcystis strain to H2O2 addition representative of lake treatments. All three strains initially ceased growth upon H2O2 addition. Contrary to expectation, the non-toxic strain and non-toxic mutant rapidly degraded the added H2O2 and subsequently recovered, whereas the toxic strain did not degrade H2O2 and did not recover. Experimental catalase addition enabled recovery of the toxic strain, demonstrating that rapid H2O2 degradation is indeed essential for cyanobacterial survival. Interestingly, prior to H2O2 addition, gene expression of a thioredoxin and peroxiredoxin was much lower in the toxic strain than in its non-toxic mutant. Thioredoxin and peroxiredoxin are both involved in H2O2 degradation, and microcystin may potentially suppress their activity. These results show that microcystin-producing strains are less prepared for high levels of oxidative stress, and are therefore hit harder by H2O2 addition than non-toxic strains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-55
JournalHarmful Algae
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Cyanobacteria
  • Harmful algal blooms
  • Microcystins
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Microarrays
  • Microcystis aeruginosa
  • international


Dive into the research topics of 'Microcystin interferes with defense against high oxidative stress in harmful cyanobacteria'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this