Harmful blooms formed by planktonic microalgae (HABs) in both freshwater and coastal waters regularly lead to severe mortalities of fish and invertebrates causing substantial economic losses of marine products worldwide. The mixotrophic haptophyte Prymnesium parvum is one of the most important microalgae associated with fish kills. Here 26 strains of P. parvum with a wide geographical distribution were screened for the production of prymnesins, the suspected causative allelochemical toxins. All investigated strains produced prymnesins, indicating that the toxins play an important role for the organism. The prymnesins can be classified into three types based on the length of the carbon backbone of the compound and each algal strain produced only one of these types. Biogeographical mapping of the prymnesin distribution indicated a global distribution of each type. In addition, phylogenetic analyses based on internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences revealed monophyletic origin of all prymnesin types and clades could therefore be defined based on the toxic compound. It might be that evolution of new species within the P. parvum species complex is driven by changes in toxin type or that they are a result of it. Such a correlation between chemotype and phylotype has never been documented before for a harmful microalga. Chemotaxonomy and ITS-type classification may thus be used to further delimit the P. parvum species complex.
Binzer, S. B., Svenssen, D. K., Daugbjerg, N., Alves-de-Souza, C., Pinto, E., Hansen, P. J., … Varga, E. (2019). A-, B- and C-type prymnesins are clade specific compounds and chemotaxonomic markers in Prymnesium parvum. Harmful Algae, 81, 10–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2018.11.010