Bacteriocidal effects of brevetoxin on natural microbial communities

Rachel E. Sipler, Lora R. McGuinness, Gary J. Kirkpatrick, Lee J. Kerkhof, Oscar M. Schofield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The sensitivity of bacteria to the marine neurotoxins, brevetoxins, produced by the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis and raphidophytes Chattonella spp. remains an open question. We investigated the bacteriocidal effects of brevetoxin (PbTx-2) on the abundance and community composition of natural microbial communities by adding it to microbes from three coastal marine locations that have varying degrees of historical brevetoxin exposure: (1) Great Bay, New Jersey, (2) Rehoboth Bay, Delaware and (3) Sarasota Bay, Florida. The populations with limited or no documented exposure were more susceptible to the effects of PbTx-2 than the Gulf of Mexico populations which are frequently exposed to brevetoxins. The community with no prior documented exposure to brevetoxins showed significant (p=0.03) changes in bacterial abundance occurring with additions greater than 2.5μgPbTx-2L-1. Brevetoxin concentrations during K. brevis blooms range from ~2.5 to nearly 100μgL-1 with typical concentrations of ~10-30μgL-1. In contrast to the unexposed populations, there was no significant decrease in bacterial cell number for the microbial community that was frequently exposed to brevetoxins, which implies variable sensitivity in natural communities. The diversity in the bacterial communities that were sensitive to PbTx-2 declined upon exposure. This suggests that the PbTx-2 was selecting for or against specific species. Mortality was much higher in the 200μgPbTx-2L-1 treatment after 48h and >37% of the species disappeared in the bacterial communities with no documented exposure. These results suggest that toxic red tides may play a role in structuring bacterial communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-109
Number of pages9
JournalHarmful Algae
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science


  • Bacteriocidal
  • Brevetoxin
  • Chattonella sp.
  • Karenia brevis
  • Pb-Tx 2
  • Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP)


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