Microcystins, BMAA and BMAA isomers in 100-year-old Antarctic cyanobacterial mats collected during Captain R.F. Scott’s Discovery Expedition

From the abstract of a new paper by Jungblut et. al (2018) published in European Journal of Phycology :

Microcystins (MCN), β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) and anatoxin-a were investigated in Antarctic cyanobacterial mats collected from Ross Island and the McMurdo Ice Shelf, East Antarctica during Captain Scott’s ‘Discovery’ National Antarctic Expedition (1901–1904). Ultra-performance liquid chromatography-photodiode array detection (UPLC-PDA) and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) analysis were used to quantify the cyanotoxins in seven cyanobacterial mat samples. MCNs were identified in six of the mat samples at concentrations from 0.5 to 16.1 µg g–1 dry weight. BMAA was found in one sample (528 ng g–1 dry weight, total BMAA), as well as two BMAA isomers, 2,4-diaminobutyric acid (DAB) and N-(2-aminoethyl) glycine (AEG) in six samples up to 6.56 and 6.79 μg g–1 dry weight, respectively. No anatoxin-a was detected. The findings confirm that MCNs, BMAA and BMAA isomers are preserved under dry herbarium conditions. The ‘Discovery’ cyanobacterial mat samples represent the oldest polar cyanobacterial samples found to contain cyanotoxins to date and provide new baseline data for cyanotoxins in Antarctic freshwater cyanobacterial mats from prior to human activity in Antarctica, the development of the ozone hole and current levels of climatic change.

Read the story by Katie Pavid in the Natural History Museum, UK website.


A.D. Jungblut, J. Wilbraham, S.A. Banack, J.S. Metcalf & G.A. Codd (2018) Microcystins, BMAA and BMAA isomers in 100-year-old Antarctic cyanobacterial mats collected during Captain R.F. Scott’s Discovery Expedition, European Journal of Phycology, DOI: 10.1080/09670262.2018.1442587

Two PhD students are recruited to work in the BRAIN-BE project MICROBIAN at the Universities of Ghent and Liège, Belgium – including field campaigns in the Antarctic !

Project In the BelSPO funded MICROBIAN project (Microbiome diversity and function in the Sør Rondane Mountains, East Antarctica), coordinated by the Laboratory of Protistology and Aquatic Ecology, remote sensing analysis of soil crusts in a high latitude cold desert will be combined with field experiments and metagenomics studies to map their spatial distribution, community composition and metabolic capabilities. In addition, phylogenetic and physiological studies will be conducted on newly isolated bacteria and cyanobacteria, known to be present and highly abundant in the region from previous metagenomics analyses.

Your tasks will be organized to design two complementary theses:

  1. Participation to field campaigns to the Antarctic. The first campaign is planned for Dec. 2017 – Jan. 2018 and includes sample collection for DNA and RNA analyses, mapping of soil crusts using drones and in situ measurements (i.a. PAM fluorometry), setting up and maintaining of field experiments.
  2. Library preparation for amplicon and shotgun based metagenomics and subsequent bioinformatics data analysis.
  3. Isolation, cultivation, phenotyping and genotyping of Polar microorganisms using a range of growth conditions.
  4. Analysis and interpretation of remote sensing data and georeferencing and mapping of sampling locations.

Deadline for applications is 28 May 2017.

Visit the Euraxess webpage of this job offer for more information.