Characterization of cyanophyte biomass in a Bureau of Reclamation reservoir

Open-File Report 2013-1156

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
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DOI: 10.3133/ofr20131156



The purpose of this study was to characterize the cyanophyte Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) from Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, (UKL) and, based on this description, explore uses for AFA, which would have commercial value. AFA collected from UKL in 2010 from eight sites during a period of approximately 2 weeks were similar in composition spatially and temporally. 31P nuclear magnetic resonance analysis of the samples indicated that the AFA samples contained a broad range of phosphorus-containing compounds. The largest variation in organic phosphorus compounds was found in a sample collected from Howard Bay compared with samples collected the sites at Pelican Marina, North Buck Island, Eagle Ridge, Eagle Ridge South, Shoalwater Bay, and Agency Lake South. 31P Nuclear Magnetic Resonance data indicated that the average ratio of inorganic phosphorus (orthophosphate) to organic phosphorus in the AFA samples was approximately 60:40 in extraction solutions of either water or a more rigorous solution of sodium hydroxide plus ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. This indicates that when AFA cells senesce, die and lyse, cell contents added to the water column contain a broad spectrum of phosphorus-containing compounds approximately 50 percent of which are organic phosphorus compounds. The organic phosphorus content of AFA is directly and significantly related to the total carbon content of AFA. Total concentrations of the elements Al, Ca, Fe, Mg, Ti and Zn were similar in all samples with the exception of elevated iron in the July 27, 2010, sample from Pelican Marina. Iron concentration in the July 27, 2010, Pelican Marina sample was elevated; the concentration of iron in the August 9, 2010, sample from Pelican Marina was indistinguishable from iron in the other AFA samples that were collected. The carbon to nitrogen ratio in all AFA samples that were analyzed was 5.4 plus or minus 0.04 as compared with the Redfield ratio of carbon to nitrogen ratio of 6.6, which could be attributed to the large concentrations of nitrogen (protein) in AFA or to optimal growth rate. In UKL there is a concern that microcystin, the toxin produced by microcystis, might be present in what appears to be predominantly AFA in the lake water. Experiments preformed as part of this study identified a process that reduces the toxicity of microcystin when it is present in water slurry containing AFA. The process combines (1) the inhibition of the α, ß-unsaturated carbonyl in microcystin with (2) the breakdown of proteins in AFA using the protease activity of plant enzymes. Protease enzymes can break peptide bonds in microcystin, which results in destruction of the cyclic structure of the microcystin polypeptide. Laboratory conditions used in this study resulted in the inactivation of approximately 60 percent of the activity of microcystin.

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USGS Numbered Series
Characterization of cyanophyte biomass in a Bureau of Reclamation reservoir
Series title:
Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
National Research Program - Eastern Branch
ix, 59 p.
United States
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