Next Generation Sequencing and mass spectrometry reveal high taxonomic diversity and complex phytoplankton-phycotoxins patterns in Southeastern Pacific fjords

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Abstract

In fjord systems, Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) not only constitute a serious problem when affecting the wildlife and ecosystems, but also human health and economic activities related to the marine environment. This is mostly due to a broad spectrum of toxic compounds produced by several members of the phytoplankton. Nevertheless, a deep coverage of the taxonomic diversity and composition of phytoplankton species and phycotoxin profiles in HAB prone areas are still lacking and little is known about the relationship between these fundamental elements for fjord ecosystems. In this study, a detailed molecular and microscopic characterization of plankton communities was performed, together with an analysis of the occurrence and spatial patterns of lipophilic toxins in a HAB prone area, located in the Southeastern Pacific fjord region. Microscopy and molecular analyses based on the 18S rRNA gene fragment indicated high diversity and taxonomic homogeneity among stations. Four toxigenic genera were identified: Pseudo-nitzschia, Dinophysis, Prorocentrum, and Alexandrium. In agreement with the detected species, liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry revealed the presence of domoic acid (DA), pectenotoxin-2 (PTX-2), dinophysistoxin-2 (DTX-2), and 13-desmethyl spirolide C (SPX-1). Furthermore, a patchy distribution among DA in different net haul size fractions was found. Our results displayed a complex phytoplankton-phycotoxin pattern and for the first time contribute to the characterization of high-resolution phytoplankton community composition and phycotoxin distribution in fjords of the Southeastern Pacific region.

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