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Biologists find diatom to reduce red tide's toxicity
Date:8/20/2008

ng with the S. costatum diatom to test her group's hypothesis and found that the samples with both organisms had a smaller concentration of brevetoxin B than samples without the diatom. They also tested the algae with four different S. costatum diatom strains from around the world and came up with largely the same results. That suggests that evolutionary experience with the red tide algae was not necessary for the diatom to resist the toxins.

In another experiment, covered in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, they found that the red tide algae was able to reduce the growth of the S. costatum diatom, but that exposure of the red tide organism to S. costatum makes the red tide less toxic to microscopic algae. That suggests that the diatom is somehow able to reduce the potency of red tide's toxins.

"It could be that Skeletonema is degrading Karenia's allelopathic chemicals just like it degrades brevetoxins. Or, it could be that Skeletonema is stressing Karenia out, making it harder to produce allelopathic chemicals," said Kubanek.

What they do know is that the brevetoxins that harm oysters and other members of the animal kingdom aren't the whole story.

"We found that when we took seawater and added purified brevetoxins to it, the live algae didn't suffer much, so there must be other chemicals released by the red tide that are toxic to these algae," said Kubanek.

How that's done, isn't clear yet, but Kubanek and her group are currently working on finding the answer to that question.

"What we do know is that this diatom, S. costatum, is able to undermine these toxins produced by the red tide, as well as the brevetoxins that are known to kill vertebrate animals like fish and dolphins," said Kubanek.

If scientists such as Kubanek and her team can learn more about the strategies that microscopic algae use to reduce the toxicity of red tide, they might be able to use that knowledge to help reduce the poiso
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Contact: David Terraso
david.terraso@comm.gatech.edu
404-385-2966
Georgia Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

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