Bioassays with the toxic cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa PCC 7806, its non-toxic mutant Delta mcyB, and Daphnia magna as grazer were used to evaluate biotic factors in induced defence, in particular cyanobacterial and grazer-released info-chemicals. Three main questions were addressed in this study: Does Daphnia grazing lead to a loss of cyanobaterial biomass? Is the survival time of Daphnia shorter in a culture of the toxic cyanobacterium? Does direct grazing or the presence of spent Daphnia medium or a high number of disrupted toxic Microcystis cells in the assays lead to an increase in the cellular microcystin content in the remaining intact cells? The biovolume (growth) as well as size and abundance of Microcystis aggregates were determined by particle analysis, while the survival time of Daphnia individuals was recorded by daily observation and counting, with the relative concentration of cell-bound microcystin-LR, was measured by HPLC analysis. Compared to some recent studies in the field of induced defence, in this study, evidence was found for a direct grazing effect, i.e. the loss of biovolume in the toxic culture. In addition, Daphnia magna ingested more non-toxic than toxic cells, and survived longer with non-toxic cells. In terms of increased cell-bound toxin concentration as a means of defence reported in some studies, a higher cell-bound microcystin-LR content was not measured in this study in any of the treatments (P > 0.05). Under low light conditions with impaired growth of Microcystis, and the presence of a high number of particles with less than 1-mu m diameter (possibly heterotrophic bacteria), Daphnia medium was associated with a strong reduction in cell-bound toxin concentration (P < 0.05). This study showed no increased cell aggregation under direct grazing (P > 0.05), but increased aggregation with spent Daphnia medium under high light conditions (P < 0.05). Further, the addition of cell-free extract from disrupted toxic Microcystis cells strongly increased the aggregation of the intact cells under low light (P < 0.05). These findings are discussed with the possible role of microcystin and other infochemicals in the expression of proteins and morphology changes in Microcystis.
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