Molecular Approaches to Early Detection and Detoxification of Red Tides

EPA Grant Number: EM832982
Title: Molecular Approaches to Early Detection and Detoxification of Red Tides
Investigators: Barreto, Jose , Alberte, Randall S.
Current Investigators: Barreto, Jose , Brown, David , Volety, Aswani K.
Institution: Florida Gulf Coast University
EPA Project Officer: Klieforth, Barbara I
Project Period: July 1, 2006 through July 1, 2009
Project Amount: $243,750
RFA: Targeted Research Grant (2006) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Aquatic Ecosystems , Targeted Research


This is a laboratory-orientated research program to investigate and begin to identify the molecular triggers and key environmental controlling factors for bloom initiation in the Red Tide organism Karenia brevis to allow for early detection of blooms, and to develop an environmentally safe and effective means to mitigate the harmful effects of K. brevis and the toxins it produces.


The environmental influence sand cell-based molecular triggers that lead to initiation of Karenia brevis blooms in the western Gulf of Mexico are unknown. It is hypothesized that K. brevis blooms initiate under mixotrophic light-limited conditions, and that a unique set of gene transcripts characterize bloom initiation. It is further hypothesized that 'activated' titanium oxide in the presence of sunlight can be used to rapidly destroy K. brevis and breve toxins without the production of long-lived toxic or environmentally harmful by-products. The research program will begin to establish the causal relationships between physical and chemical environmental factor sand the subsequent gene expression that drives bloom initiation.


Culturing and high-through put screening methods for K. brevis using 24-well plates for automated assessment of growth has been developed and will be used to assess growth responses to known and unknown (natural water samples) physical and chemical factors in an unbiased and rational manner. Gene expression microarrays will be developed to identify genes involved in K. brevis bloom initiation. 'Hits" from natural water samples will be subjected to chemical analysis and re-screening to identify growth-promoting chemistries. We will also develop a novel low-dose UV-activated metal oxide system to detoxify K. brevis assed by using live/dead staining, and destruction of breve toxins assed by using new TOF-MS technologies.

Expected Results:

The gene expression microarrays generated here will have long-termutility for screening seawater samples for bloom triggers and assist in the development of forecasting models that could be used to predict K. brevis blooms in time and space. The early detection of K. brevis bloom initiation would be useful for the planning and implementation of any mitigation technology, and would enhance its cost effectiveness. The simple, inexpensive and highly effective ROS generation technology being developed should have a high payoff in the short-term for localized mitigation of any HABs and their related toxins.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 54 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 3 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Karenia brevis, red tide, brevetoxins, gene expression, microarrays, high-throughput screening, reactive oxygen species, UV-activated metal oxides, algal blooms, toxicity, coastal ecosystems, aquatic habitats, estuarine research, toxin producing algae, dinoflagellates, mixotrophy, mitogens, TOF-MS, fluorescence,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Oceanography, algal blooms, Ecology and Ecosystems, brevetoxins, HAB ecology, red tide bloom, titanium oxide treatment, algal bloom detection, algal toxins, Karenia brevis, K. brevis

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • Final Report