Targeting a Deadly Toxin
Explosions in the population of cyanobacteria can produce toxic algal blooms. Microcystin-LR the most potent and common algal bloom toxin, binds Protein Phosphatase 1. The average cyanobacteria infested lake in America contains over 1000 times the Microcystin safe drinking water limit set by the World Health Organisation.
Concerned by a harmful algal bloom in the local community, we used synthetic biology to target the toxin. We exploited the mechanism of Microcystin's toxicity to develop our Mop; by expressing Protein Phosphatase 1 we can mop up Microcystin. The interaction was also the basis for developing a biological Detector. To deploy our Detector and to consider the root causes of algal blooms we created the electronic Moptopus. It sits on a lake and monitors conditions relevant to cyanobacterial growth to help predict future blooms.