Cyanobacteria produce diverse compounds that can be toxic to humans. Some of these metabolites are valued in the biotechnological and biomedical industries. Scientists think that these secondary metabolites do not help the cyanobacteria grow but give them a competitive edge. Another suggestion is that they shape the composition of the microorganisms community through interactions with other species. The EU-funded CYANOMIC (Secondary metabolites of Microcystis aeruginosa (cyanobacteria): Study of their production and role by a metabolomic approach) initiative investigated the cyanobacteria Microcystis aeruginosa, which releases microcystin toxins. The study used M. aeruginosa as a model as it has caused many toxic outbreaks in freshwater ecosystems all over the world. CYANOMIC aimed to investigate how other species affect secondary metabolite production by M. aeruginosa. With this information, the group would create a model able to predict the toxicity of a Microcystis bloom. The researchers put different strains of M. aeruginosa in one environment to see how this would affect secondary metabolite production. They then tested the effect of other species of bacteria on this production. Lastly, they tested how secondary metabolites influenced bacterial species composition and how those species interacted with M. aeruginosa. CYANOMIC found that having two strains of M. aeruginosa in one environment increased production of the microcystin secondary metabolite. They found that some species of bacteria use the microcystin toxin as food, which also helps M. aeruginosa survive through mutually beneficial interaction. The results of this research bring scientists a step closer to isolating bacteria that can degrade toxic secondary metabolites. These could be used in water treatment plants to remove the cyanobacterial secondary metabolites and make the water safe to drink.
Toxins, cyanobacteria, secondary metabolites, CYANOMIC, Microcystis aeruginosa