Growth dynamics and domoic acid production of Pseudo-nitzschia sp. in response to oil and dispersant exposure. Academic Article uri icon


  • The diatom genus Pseudo-nitzschia is a common component of phytoplankton communities in the Gulf of Mexico and is potentially toxic as some species produce the potent neurotoxin domoic acid. The impact of oil and chemical dispersants on Pseudo-nitzschia spp. and domoic acid production have not yet been studied; preliminary findings from a mesocosm experiment suggest this genus may be particularly resilient. A toxicological study was conducted using a colony of Pseudo-nitzschia sp. isolated from a station off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. The cultures were exposed to a water accommodated fraction (WAF) of oil and a diluted chemically enhanced WAF (DCEWAF) which was a mix of oil and dispersant (20:1). Exposure to WAF induced a lag phase but did not inhibit growth rates once in exponential growth. Cultures grown in DCEWAF did not experience a lag phase but had significantly lower growth rates than the Control and WAF cultures. The cellular quota of domoic acid was higher in cultures treated with DCEWAF and WAF relative to their control values, and half of the domoic acid had leaked out of the cells into the surrounding seawater in the DCEWAF cultures while all the domoic acid remained inside the cells in WAF-treated cultures. These results suggest that the presence of oil could lead to toxic blooms, but that the application of dispersant could decrease bioaccumulation of domoic acid through the food web.

published proceedings

  • Harmful Algae

altmetric score

  • 2

author list (cited authors)

  • Bretherton, L., Hillhouse, J., Bacosa, H., Setta, S., Genzer, J., Kamalanathan, M., Finkel, Z. V., & Quigg, A.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Bretherton, Laura||Hillhouse, Jessica||Bacosa, Hernando||Setta, Samantha||Genzer, Jennifer||Kamalanathan, Manoj||Finkel, Zoe V||Quigg, Antonietta

publication date

  • January 2019