Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 1279–1286 | Cite as

Detection of microcystin producing cyanobacteria in Spirulina dietary supplements using multiplex HRM quantitative PCR

  • Kamath Mukund Manali
  • Rex Arunraj
  • Thangarathinam Kumar
  • Mohandass RamyaEmail author


Arthrospira species, under the name ‘Spirulina’, are used as food supplement for its protein, vitamins, and minerals which have several health benefits. Cyanobacterial toxins including microcystins can possibly contaminate these dietary supplements causing hepatotoxicity, tumour formation, and other disorders. The safe use of dietary supplements necessitates the need to assess such toxins in the algal food supplement. The methods which evaluate these dietary supplements should be highly sensitive, cost-effective, and rapid. In this study, multiplex HRM qPCR analysis was used to detect microcystin (MC)-producing cyanobacteria in Spirulina dietary supplements. The multiplex HRM qPCR detection limit was found to be 25 ag of mcyB spiked in a standard concentration of pcb (25 pg). Two distinct melt curves characteristic of pcb (Tm 82.8 ± 0.07 °C) and mcyB (Tm 77.9 ± 0.05 °C) were observed. Microcystin contamination was detected only in the fish food supplements and not in human dietary supplements of Spirulina. Liquid chromatography–high-resolution mass spectrometry analysis further confirmed the presence of the congeners of microcystin in the identified positive samples.


Microcystin Arthrospira platensis Multiplex HRM qPCR Dietary supplements Liquid chromatography–high-resolution mass spectrometry 



We would like to acknowledge the support and facility given by SRM University in carrying out this project.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10811_2016_1011_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.7 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1698 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kamath Mukund Manali
    • 1
  • Rex Arunraj
    • 1
  • Thangarathinam Kumar
    • 2
  • Mohandass Ramya
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Genetic EngineeringSRM UniversityKancheepuram DistrictIndia
  2. 2.Analytical Research and Development DivisionPiramal Enterprises LimitedChennaiIndia

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