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iGEM Dundee 2013 · ToxiMop

A Blooming Community Effort

Algal blooms occur seasonally worldwide. These blooms are harmful to humans because many of these algae release toxins which affect critical cellular processes with potentially devastating effects. One of the most harmful of these toxins is microcystin, a cyclic peptide produced by the cyanobacteria Microcystis aeruginosa which permanently disables protein phosphatases 1 and 2A, each of which have integral roles in critical cellular processes such as the cell cycle. This microcystin is a real problem, with the average concentration of microcystin in US lakes with a cyanobacterial bloom being 1000 times over the WHO safe drinking water limit.

Inspired by a harmful algal bloom containing these M. aeruginosa cyanobacteria in the local community, the Dundee iGEM team learnt about how they could use synthetic biology to create a new technology which could potentially solve this problem. Using E. coli, the team made a biological mop for microcystin – ToxiMop – E. coli that expresses PP1 in its periplasm where it can interact with microcystin and neutralise the toxin.