Edwin Wong

Cyanobacteria

Cyanobacteria (aka “blue-green algae”) are not plant algae, but true bacteria. As photosynthetic bacteria, it’s believed they helped produce the first oxygen atmosphere on Earth and may be progenitors of chloroplasts in plant cells (endosymbiotic theory). Cyanobacteria play an important role in the carbon and nitrogen cycles of the planet, and some species have found a following as neutraceuticals (e.g. Spirulina). Despite these benefits, some species possess the genetic capability to produce metabolites toxic to animals (i.e. cyanotoxins).

The Wong Lab at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) operates a program to monitor and study cyanobacteria in regional waterways. Water samples are collected and brought back to the lab for the following analyses: (a) water parameters such as temperature, pH, and conductivity; (b) measuring nutrients such as total nitrogen and phosphorus; (c) classification of genera by photomicroscopy; (d) DNA isolation and qPCR quantitation of genes for phycocyanin and cyanotoxin genes (anaC, mcyD, sxtA); (e) fluorometric determination of biovolume; (f) measurement of cyanotoxin concentration by ELISA assay.