Dozens of toxin-related genes are expressed in a nontoxic strain of the dinoflagellate Heterocapsa circularisquama

Tovah Salcedo, Ravi J. Upadhyay, Keizo Nagasaki, Debashish Bhattacharya

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28 Scopus citations


The dinoflagellate Heterocapsa circularisquama is lethal to a variety of marine organisms, in particular, commercially important farmed bivalves. Unlike most dinoflagellate toxins, which are polyketides, the only described toxin from H. circularisquama (H2-a) is a porphyrin derivative that functions in light. It is unknown whether H2-a is produced specifically for its lytic properties. We searched for toxin-related genes in the transcriptome of a nontoxic strain of H. circularisquama, and surprisingly found the richest set of toxin-related genes yet described in dinoflagellates. There are 87 distinct expressed sequence tag contigs that encode polyketide synthases and nonribosomal peptide synthases, as well as 8 contigs that are involved in porphyrin biosynthesis. Phylogenomic analysis shows that many toxin-related genes are widely distributed among dinoflagellates. Our data likely indicate a variety of unknown metabolic functions for the toxin-related genes in H. circularisquama because they were identified in a nontoxic strain raised in unialgal culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1503-1506
Number of pages4
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


  • Harmful algal bloom
  • Nonribosomal peptide synthase
  • Polyketide synthase
  • Porphyrin


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