A molecular basis for polyketide biosynthesis in marine dinoflagellates with emphasis on Karenia brevis

Richard Vincent Snyder, Florida International University


Polyketides derived from dinoflagellates are among the most complex and unique structures identified to date. The carbon framework of all polyketides is assembled by a polyketide synthase (PKS). No studies of the biosynthesis of dinoflagellate derived polyketides at the genomic level have been reported to date. Nine strains representing seven different species of dinoflagellates were screened for the presence of type I and type II polyketide synthases (PKS) by PCR and RT-PCR. Seven of the nine strains yielded products that were homologous with known and putative type I polyketide synthases. In each case, the presence of a PKS gene was correlated with the presence of bacteria in the cultures as identified by amplification of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene. However, residual phylogenetic signals, resistance to methylation sensitive restriction enzymes and the lack of hybridization to bacterial isolates support a dinoflagellate origin for most of these genes. A more detailed analysis of Karenia brevis, a toxic marine dinoflagellate endemic to the Gulf of Mexico, also supports the hypothesis that dinoflagellates have polyketide synthase genes. Blooms of this harmful alga cause fish kills, marine mammal mortalities and neurotoxic shellfish poisonings. These harmful effects are attributed to a suite of polyketide secondary metabolites known as the brevetoxins. PKS encoding genes amplified from K. brevis culture were found to be similar to PKS genes from the closely related protist, Cryptosporidium parvum. This suggested that these genes originate from the dinoflagellate. However, K. brevis has not been grown axenically. The associated bacteria might be the source of the toxins or the PKS genes. This dissertation reports the localization of these PKS encoding genes by a combination of flow cytometry/PCR and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Two genes localized exclusively to K. brevis cells while a third localized to both K. brevis and associated bacteria. While these genes have not yet been linked to toxin production, the work describes the first definitive evidence of resident PKS genes in any dinoflagellate.

Subject Area

Biochemistry|Molecular biology|Microbiology

Recommended Citation

Snyder, Richard Vincent, "A molecular basis for polyketide biosynthesis in marine dinoflagellates with emphasis on Karenia brevis" (2005). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3190962.