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Centers for Oceans & Human Health

Several fish swimming in coral reef


  • Whole genome and EST sequencing of the HAB species Pseudo-nitzschia multiseries will be completed and made publicly available by end of 2007.
  • Using a functional genomics approach to gain better understanding of the physiology and ecology of the organism responsible for these red tides, the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis. Creation of an EST library, currently at 18,000 ESTs, representative of the expressed genes in K. brevis cells. Several candidates for the genes involved in brevetoxin production and perhaps in the regulation of the production of three novel additional peptide-based toxins. Surprisingly, although there are genetic differences among laboratory strains when using nuclear markers, there is little if any divergence in mitochondrial DNA which deserves further investigation.

Sensors & Modeling

  • Development of a portable surface plasmon resonance (SPR)-based biosensor system that can detect the Pseudo-nitzschia toxin domoic acid.
  • Construction and deployment of ORCA (Oceanic Remote Chemical Analyzer) buoys in Hood Canal, WA for continuous monitoring of biological and chemical parameters of the water column. All data are publicly available in realtime at Exit NIEHS.
Scube diver exploring underwater

New Organisms, Toxins & Mechanisms

  • Discovery that many species of aquatic cyanobacteria are capable of producing N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), a neurotoxic amino acid.
  • Ongoing study of relationship between epiphytic cyanobacteria on Hydrilla and presence of BMAA in aquatic ducks, which are eaten by hunters and bald eagles. May explain decline of bald eagle populations in southeastern United States.
  • Collaboration with NOAA OHH Hollings Marine Laboratory to develop LC/MS assay for structural determination of ciguatoxin congeners.
  • Documentation of differential clearance/accumulation rates of the toxin domoic acid in different species of intertidal invertebrates, including economically important harvest species.
  • Development of methods to rapidly detect the diversity of bacteria associated with Pseudo-nitzschia multiseries. Department of Health & Human Services National Institutes of Health
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Last Reviewed: February 19, 2008