National Research Council of Canada. NRC Institute for Marine Biosciences
A novel micro-extraction technique was applied to the extraction of biologically active macrocyclic imines known as spirolides from pooled individual cells isolated from spirolide-rich plankton material. For comparison, this method was also applied to pooled individual cells isolated from a unialgal culture of the marine dinoflagellate Alexandrium ostenfeldii (Paulsen) Balech and Tangen, a species known to produce spirolides. Both athecate cells and motile forms of gonyaulacoid dinoflagellates derived from size-fractionated plankton material from Nova Scotia, Canada were sorted and pooled by the glass micropipette isolation technique and by flow cytometry. The development of a highly sensitive analytical method for spirolides (detection limit 2 ng ml(-1) for spirolide B) using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and application to micro-extracted samples allowed the accurate determination of spirolide composition in as few as 50 cells. Total spirolide concentrations (fmol cell(-1)) calculated from pooled micropipette isolated cells were very consistent with those based upon bulk- or micro-extractions of A. ostenfeldii cells from unialgal batch cultures in exponential growth phase. The results of the pooled cell selection from field material from two sites in Nova Scotia confirmed the association of spirolides with vegetative cells of A. ostenfeldii and related athecate forms. Combining these techniques represents a highly sensitive method for the analysis of marine toxins within complex plankton matrices, even when the toxigenic species is in low abundance, by enrichment of the target organism.