Domoic acid improves the competitive ability of pseudo-nitzschia delicatissima against the diatom skeletonema marinoi

Emily K. Prince, Friederike Irmer, Georg Pohnert

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Because domoic acid, a neurotoxic secondary metabolite produced by marine diatoms in the genus Pseudo-nitzschia, is hypothesized to be part of a high affinity iron uptake system, we investigated whether domoic acid could improve the competitive ability of Pseudo-nitzschia delicatissima, and whether the availability of iron changed the outcome of competition experiments. We found that domoic acid had a slight negative effect on growth of the diatom Skeletonema marinoi when it was grown in monocultures. However, when S. marinoi was cultured with P. delicatissima the presence of domoic acid resulted in a reduction of S. marinoi cells by up to 38% and an increase in P. delicatissima cell numbers by up to 17% under iron replete conditions. Similar effects were not observed in low iron treatments. Domoic acid was not taken up by P. delicatissima cells. Overall, our results indicate that domoic acid can improve the competitive ability of Pseudo-nitzschia spp. and that iron is likely to be involved. This study provides an unusual example of indirect inhibition of competitor growth mediated by a secondary metabolite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2398-2412
Number of pages15
JournalMarine Drugs
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2013



  • Allelopathy
  • Competition
  • Domoic acid
  • Harmful algal bloom
  • Iron
  • Pseudo-nitzschia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery

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