, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 1077-1089

Development of rRNA-targeted probes for detection of Prorocentrum micans (Dinophyceae) using whole cell in situ hybridization

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Abstract

Prorocentrum is a common dinoflagellate genus along the Chinese seacoast, which frequently causes harmful algal blooms. Efforts to understand and prevent blooms caused by these harmful species require the development of methods for rapid and precise identification and quantification so that an adequate early warning of harmful algal blooms may be given. Here, we report the development and application of rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes for fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to aid in the detection of Prorocentrum micans. The hypervariable D1–D2 regions of a large subunit rDNA of a strain isolated from East China Sea identified as P. micans were first sequenced to design species-specific probes. Analysis of sequences identified as P. micans and deposited in GenBank revealed significant base differences among them and phylogenetic analyses revealed multiple clades within the taxon P. micans. Thus, it is likely that more than one taxonomic and genetically distinct entity has been identified as P. micans, if not misidentified. A series of probes were identified to one of these clades and tested for their specificity. Second, whole cell in situ hybridization procedures were established and the optimal probes were screened among the candidate probes. Next, cross-reactivity was performed to test the specificity of the probes and the detection reliability under various culture conditions, including different nutrient levels, temperatures, and light intensities. Finally, an improved protocol for natural samples was applied to the field material. The designed rRNA-targeted probe was specific, showing no cross-reactivity with other microalgae. The optimized detection protocol could be completed within 1.5 h. All target cells were speculated to be identified during all stages of their whole growth cycle under different culture conditions because the difference in fluorescence intensities throughout the experiment was not significant (p > 0.05). The cell densities determined by FISH and light microscopy (LM) were comparable, without any significant difference (p > 0.05) between them. In general, the established FISH probe was promising for specific, rapid, precise detection of a selected set of P. micans in natural samples and served as a good detection model for other Prorocentrum in the future.