Chemical Signals Activate Toxic Algae Blooms | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 93 Issue 20 | p. 29 | Concentrates
Issue Date: May 18, 2015

Chemical Signals Activate Toxic Algae Blooms

Chemical Ecology: The first chemical communication network discovered for zooplankton could help explain toxic phytoplankton blooms
Department: Science & Technology | Collection: Critter Chemistry, Life Sciences
News Channels: Biological SCENE, Environmental SCENE
Keywords: chemical communication, neurotoxinc, algae bloom

Single-celled marine algae called Alexandrium minutum, which are responsible for nearly half of the photosynthesis on Earth, sometimes grow with abandon, producing neurotoxic alkaloid compounds that accumulate in food chains and harm commercial fisheries. What motivates these phytoplankton to produce the poisons has been a long-standing question. According to a team of researchers led by Erik Selander of the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden, the algae’s zooplankton predators are to blame (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2015, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1420154112). The researchers discovered that phytoplankton-eating zooplankton produce a family of polar lipids called copepod­amides that likely help them digest their algae prey. However, when the algae detect the copepodamides, they start producing the alkaloids, such as saxitoxin, as a defense strategy. Just pico- to nanomolar levels of copepodamides can increase production of the neurotoxic alkaloids by a factor of 20, the researchers say.

[+]Enlarge
Copepodamides are a family of polar lipids in which R1 is typically a methyl or methylene group and R2 ranges from a hydrogen atom to 22-carbon docosahexaenoic acid.
Structure of a copepodamide.
 
Copepodamides are a family of polar lipids in which R1 is typically a methyl or methylene group and R2 ranges from a hydrogen atom to 22-carbon docosahexaenoic acid.
 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society

Leave A Comment

*Required to comment