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Mar. Drugs 2013, 11(8), 2814-2828; doi:10.3390/md11082814
Review

Evolution and Distribution of Saxitoxin Biosynthesis in Dinoflagellates

1,2
, 1
, 3,4
 and 1,2,*
1 Microbial Evolution Research Group (MERG), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern, Oslo 0316, Norway 2 Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern, Oslo 0316, Norway 3 Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster (C3), University of Technology, Sydney, PO Box 123 Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia 4 Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Mosman, NSW 2088, Australia
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 22 May 2013 / Revised: 4 July 2013 / Accepted: 8 July 2013 / Published: 8 August 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Marine Shellfish Toxins)
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Abstract

Numerous species of marine dinoflagellates synthesize the potent environmental neurotoxic alkaloid, saxitoxin, the agent of the human illness, paralytic shellfish poisoning. In addition, certain freshwater species of cyanobacteria also synthesize the same toxic compound, with the biosynthetic pathway and genes responsible being recently reported. Three theories have been postulated to explain the origin of saxitoxin in dinoflagellates: The production of saxitoxin by co-cultured bacteria rather than the dinoflagellates themselves, convergent evolution within both dinoflagellates and bacteria and horizontal gene transfer between dinoflagellates and bacteria. The discovery of cyanobacterial saxitoxin homologs in dinoflagellates has enabled us for the first time to evaluate these theories. Here, we review the distribution of saxitoxin within the dinoflagellates and our knowledge of its genetic basis to determine the likely evolutionary origins of this potent neurotoxin.
Keywords: cyanobacteria; dinoflagellates; harmful algal blooms (HABs); horizontal gene transfer (HGT); phylogeny; paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP); paralytic shellfish toxin (PST); saxitoxin; STX cyanobacteria; dinoflagellates; harmful algal blooms (HABs); horizontal gene transfer (HGT); phylogeny; paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP); paralytic shellfish toxin (PST); saxitoxin; STX
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Orr, R.J.S.; Stüken, A.; Murray, S.A.; Jakobsen, K.S. Evolution and Distribution of Saxitoxin Biosynthesis in Dinoflagellates. Mar. Drugs 2013, 11, 2814-2828.

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