Studies on planktonic cyanobacteria have shown variability in cyanotoxin production, in response to changes in growth phase and environmental factors. Few studies have investigated cyanotoxin regulation in benthic mat-forming species, despite increasing reports on poisoning events caused by ingestion of these organisms. In this study, a method was developed to investigate changes in cyanotoxin quota in liquid cultures of benthic mat-forming cyanobacteria. Iron and copper are important in cellular processes and are well known to affect growth and selected metabolite production in cyanobacteria and algae. The effect of iron (40–4000 μg L−1
) and copper (2.5–250 μg L−1
) on growth and anatoxin-a quota in Phormidium autumnale
was investigated in batch culture. These concentrations were chosen to span those found in freshwater, as well as those previously reported to be toxic to cyanobacteria.
Anatoxin-a concentrations varied throughout the growth curve, with a maximum quota of between 0.49 and 0.55 pg cell−1
measured within the first two weeks of growth. Growth rates were significantly affected by copper and iron concentrations (P
< 0.0001); however, no statistically significant difference between anatoxin-a quota maxima was observed. When the iron concentrations were 800 and 4000 μg L−1
, the P. autumnale
cultures did not firmly attach to the substratum. At 250 μg L−1
copper or either 40 or 4000 μg L−1
iron, growth was suppressed.