To investigate the mechanism for the production of paralytic shellfish toxins (PST) in toxic dinoflagellates, with a 2D-gel based approach, we had made two sets of proteomic comparisons: (a) between a toxic Alexandrium catenella (AC-T) and a phylogenetically closely related non-toxic strain (AC-N), (b) between toxic AC-T grown in a medium with 10% normal amount of phosphate (AC-T-10%P) known to induce higher toxicity and AC-T grown in normal medium. We found that photosynthesis and energy production related proteins were up-regulated in AC-T when compared to AC-N. However, the same group of proteins was down-regulated in AC-T-10%P when compared to normal AC-T. Examining the relationship of photosynthesis and toxin content of AC-T upon continuous photoperiod experiment revealed that while growth and associated toxin content increased after 8 days of continuous light, toxin content maintained constant when cells were shifted from continuous light to continuous dark for 3 days. This emphasized the cruciality of light availability on toxin biosynthesis in AC-T, while another light-independent mechanism may be responsible for higher toxicity in AC-T-10%P compared to normal AC-T. Taken all together, it is believed that the interplay between "illumination", "photosynthesis", "phosphate availability", and "toxin production" is much more complicated than what we had previously anticipated.
Keywords: Alexandrium catenella; PSTs; light availability; paralytic shellfish toxins; phosphate limitation; proteomics.