Assessment of the allelochemical activity of Ostreopsis cf. ovata and the ovatoxins towards competitive benthic microalgae

Recurrent blooms of the toxic dinoflagellate Ostreopsis cf. ovata are frequently reported in the Northwestern Mediterranean Sea. The impact of these proliferations on other microalgal species inhabiting the same habitats is of interest from an ecological prospective. In vitro experiments were carried out to investigate the influence of O. cf. ovata on the growth of the co-occurring benthic diatoms Licmophora paradoxa, Navicula arenaria and the benthic dinoflagellates Prorocentrum lima and Coolia monotis. Overall, O. cf. ovata exhibited weak allelopathic effects towards these microalgal species, with a reduction in the cell abundance for L. paradoxa and P. lima only. Interestingly, dead cells of L. paradoxa and N. arenaria were observed embedded in the thick mucus surrounding O. cf. ovata cells, suggesting that the mucous layer could act as a toxic phycosphere, especially for non-motile cells. All competitors were further exposed for 24 h to ovatoxins, the major toxins produced by O. cf. ovata, and the maximum quantum yield efficiency of L. paradoxa, N. arenaria and P. lima was affected at a minimum concentration of 10 µg mL−1. We then hypothesized that the diffusion of solubilized ovatoxins in the culture medium affects only moderately the competitors’ growth, whereas their accumulation in the mucus would yield deleterious effects. More precisely, the competitors’ sensitivity to ovatoxins was enhanced in their stationary phase of growth and resulted from a rapid inhibition of an uncharacterized photosynthetic step downstream photosystem II. Altogether, these results emphasize the predominant role of the O. cf. ovata’s mucus in driving ecological interactions and suggest that it can affect the growth of several benthic microalgae by accumulating the potent ovatoxins.


Ostreopsis cf, ovata, Allelochemistry, Competition, Ovatoxins, Metabolomics

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Ternon Eva, Pavaux Anne-Sophie, Peltekis Alexandra, Gemin Marin-Pierre, Jauzein Cecile, Bailleul Benjamin, Lemée Rodolphe, Thomas Olivier P. (2022). Assessment of the allelochemical activity of Ostreopsis cf. ovata and the ovatoxins towards competitive benthic microalgae. Aquatic Ecology. 56 (2). 475-491.,

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