Project Details


Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) is a potentially fatal syndrome associated with the consumption of shellfish that have accumulated toxins produced by microscopic algae. This phenomenon is the most widespread of the poisoning syndromes caused by blooms of toxic algae (commonly called 'red tides' or 'harmful algal blooms' [HABs]). The impacts of HABs on marine ecosystems and the seafood industry are substantial (e.g., Anderson et al. 2005). Hoagland and Scatasta (2006) estimate the annual economic impact due to HAB events in the U.S. to be $82 million per year. Saxitoxins (STXs), the etiological agent of PSP, are produced by a small number of marine dinoflagellates and freshwater filamentous cyanobacteria. The biosynthetic pathway for STX synthesis is poorly understood, having thus far been delineated through radio-tracer studies and limited genome sequencing (e.g., Kellmann et al. 2008). Synthesis of STX may involve as many as 15 - 20 genes but none have been conclusively identified. The cyanobacteria represent an attractive model for identifying putative saxitoxin genes because of their small genomes and the wealth of genomic information available in databases. In contrast, the most significant impacts from STX toxicity derive from dinoflagellate blooms in marine systems. Here we propose a project that will provide a comprehensive genome-level analysis of STX evolution. These data will result in the identification of STX genes, provide an understanding of how they have spread into different taxa, and lay the foundation for understanding their expression in nature.
Effective start/end date10/1/099/30/14


  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))


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