Localization of polyketide synthase encoding genes to the toxic dinoflagellate Karenia brevis

Phytochemistry. 2005 Aug;66(15):1767-80. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2005.06.010.


Karenia brevis is a toxic marine dinoflagellate endemic to the Gulf of Mexico. 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. The carbon framework of all polyketides is assembled by a polyketide synthase (PKS). Previously, PKS encoding genes were amplified from K. brevis culture and their similarity to a PKS gene from the closely related protist, Cryptosporidium parvum, 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. Herein we report the localization of 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers
  • Dinoflagellida / classification
  • Dinoflagellida / enzymology*
  • Dinoflagellida / genetics
  • Gene Amplification
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Polyketide Synthases / genetics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • RNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • DNA Primers
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • RNA, Protozoan
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Polyketide Synthases