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Isolation and characterization of Lake Erie bacteria that degrade the cyanobacterial microcystin toxin MC-LR

Thees, Alison, Atari, Ealla, Birbeck, Johnna, Westrick, Judy A., Huntley, Jason F.
Journal of Great Lakes research 2019 v.45 no.1 pp. 138-149
Microcystis, Planktothrix, algal blooms, animal pathogens, bacteria, biofilm, drinking water, genotyping, glass, human health, lakes, microcystin-LR, public water supply, summer, Lake Erie, Ohio
Microcystin-LR (MC-LR) is a cyclic hepatotoxin produced by cyanobacteria, including Microcystis sp. and Planktothrix sp. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Lake Erie have become a major human health concern in recent years, highlighted by the August 2014 City of Toledo, Ohio, municipal water “do not drink” order that affected nearly 500,000 residents for 3 days. Given that microcystin degrading bacteria have been reported from HAB-affected waters around the world, we hypothesized that MC-LR degrading bacteria could be isolated from Lake Erie. To test this hypothesis, 13 water samples were collected from various Lake Erie locations during the summers of 2014 and 2015, MC-LR was continuously added to each water sample for 3 to 5 weeks to enrich for MC-LR-degrading bacteria, and MC-LR was quantitated over time. Whereas MC-LR was relatively stable in sterile-filtered lake water, robust MC-LR degradation (up to 19 ppb/day) was observed in some water samples. Following the MC-LR selection process, 67 individual bacterial isolates were isolated from MC-LR degrading water samples and genotyped to exclude potential human pathogens, and MC-LR degradation by smaller groups of bacterial isolates (e.g., groups of 22 isolates, groups of 11 isolates, etc.) was examined. Of those smaller groups, selected groups of four to five bacterial isolates were found to degrade MC-LR into non-toxic forms and form robust biofilms on siliconized glass tubes. Taken together, these studies support the potential use of isolated bacterial isolates to remove MC-LR from drinking water.