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Chemistry and Ecology
Vol. 31 (1), 2015, DOI: 10.1080/02757540.2014.966700

Aptamers are an innovative and promising tool for phytoplankton taxonomy and biodiversity research

Gianluca Santamaria, Carla Lucia Esposito, Laura Cerchia, Giovanna Benvenuto, Deepak Nanjappa, Diana Sarno, Adriana Zingone, Vittorio De Franciscis & Maurizio Ribera d'Alcalą

Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Villa Comunale, 80121 Napoli, Italy.

Abstract

Nucleic acid aptamers are small-size ligands that selectively bind to molecular segments even when they protrude from cell surfaces. Due to their high specificity, aptamers are widely used in biomedical research and as probes for different applications. Here, we tested whether aptamers can also discriminate among phytoplankton cells. As a proof of concept we focused on the widespread centric diatom Leptocylindrus danicus and generated two aptamers that selectively bind to its cell surface. The aptamers did not bind to other diatoms tested, which included both pennate (Pseudo-nitzschia multistriata) and centric (Skeletonema marinoi, Chaetoceros socialis) species. They also showed negative binding to closely related species (Tenuicylindrus belgicus, Leptocylindrus aporus, Leptocylindrus convexus), which are hardly recognizable with microscopy techniques. In addition, aptamers discriminated also among cells of the same clone, suggesting a potential use of aptamers as clone-specific/stage-specific probes to track phytoplankton life stages in their natural environment. While the method still needs to be tested with natural algal samples, it can complement in a unique way the existing approaches to discriminate among species and possibly life stages of marine phytoplankton. The method can find useful application in taxonomic and ecological studies as well as in environmental monitoring including early warning strategies.

Keywords: diatoms, detection methods, aptamers.


 
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