Microbial Ecology

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 667–674 | Cite as

Multiple Strategies of Bloom-Forming Microcystis to Minimize Damage by Solar Ultraviolet Radiation in Surface Waters

  • Ruben SommarugaEmail author
  • Yuwei Chen
  • Zhengwen Liu
Original Article


The occurrence of bloom-forming cyanobacteria is one of the most obvious sign of eutrophication in freshwaters. Although in eutrophic lakes water transparency in the ultraviolet (UV) region is strongly reduced, bloom-forming cyanobacteria are exposed to high solar UV radiation at the surface. Here, we show that, in a natural phytoplankton community from a very eutrophic lake, Microcystis synthesizes UV sunscreen compounds identified as mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs). The biomass-specific MAA concentration was significantly correlated with the occurrence of Microcystis but not with other algal groups, even though they were dominant in terms of biomass. Based on a photo-optical model, we estimated that the maximum MAA concentration per cell observed (2.5% dry weight) will confer only ~40% of internal screening to a single layer of Microcystis cells. Thus, the formation of a colony with several layers of cells is important to afford an efficient UV screening by internal self-shading. Overall, we propose that Microcystis uses a combination of photoprotective strategies (MAAs, carotenoids) to cope with high solar UV radiation at the water surface. These strategies include also the screening of UV radiation by d-galacturonic acid, one of the main chemical components of the slime layer in Microcystis.


Phytoplankton Carotenoid Phytoplankton Biomass Chromophoric Dissolve Organic Matter Slime Layer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Hans Paerl for useful comments on a previous version. This study was supported by the Austrian Science Foundation (P14153-BIO to R.S.), by the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu (project BK2001193), and by the cooperation program between Austria and China (ÖAD, project V.C. 2).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Aquatic Photobiology and Plankton Ecology, Institute of EcologyUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  2. 2.Nanjing Institute of Geography and LimnologyChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina

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