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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Short Communications

A Molecular Fingerprint Technique to Detect Pollution-Related Changes in River Cyanobacterial Diversity


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 36 No. 2, p. 464-468
    Received: May 12, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): pilar.mateo@uam.es
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  1. Virginia Rodríguez,
  2. Daniel Aguirre de Cárcer,
  3. Virginia Loza,
  4. Elvira Perona and
  5. Pilar Mateo *
  1. Departamento de Biología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain


Humans now have a strong influence on almost every major aquatic ecosystem, and our activities have dramatically altered the quality of receiving waters worldwide. Thus, there is a continuous need to develop and apply novel and effective technologies to detect, manage, and correct human-induced degradation of aquatic systems. In the present work, we evaluated the molecular approach using polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-temperature gradient gel electrophoresis (TGGE) to measure changes in cyanobacterial diversity along a pollution gradient in a river and compared it with that of using microscopic observations of field-fixed and cultured samples. The different 16S rDNA genes present in the cyanobacterial community of each sampling point of the river were separated by TGGE, giving a characteristic pattern of bands for each site. This pattern represents a “fingerprint” of the community, allowing direct comparisons of the different samples. The TGGE results revealed that the structure of the cyanobacterial community differed along the pollution gradient of the river. Microscopic and molecular approaches showed that cyanobacterial diversity decreased in a downstream direction. Similar results were obtained by the two methods, as indicated by the high correlation between them. We suggest PCR-TGGE could be a useful and rapidly applied technique for the routine analysis of changes in cyanobacterial diversity in response to pollution, which would allow us to monitor rivers in surveillance networks of watercourse quality.

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