Assessment of North Sea phytoplankton via molecular sensing - A method evaluation
AbstractPhytoplankton community analysis is important with respect to natural or human-induced changes in the marine environment. Because of the efforts involved and the limitations of traditional methods, molecular sensing approaches are becoming more popular. Among others, microarray techniques targeting ribosomal 18S sequences have been successfully applied for phytoplankton investigation. In this contribution, we compared the results of two microarray methods targeting 18S rDNA and 18S rRNA with the results obtained from microscopy, HPLC and flow cytometry. On a qualitative basis, the microarrays showed similar or potentially better performance than the non-molecular methods. Quantitatively, our data suggest that microarray signals obtained from 18S rDNA provide relatively rough estimates of phytoplankton abundance. In contrast, when targeting 18S rRNA instead, a robust linear relationship (r² = 0.68) between molecular sensing signal and microscopic cell counts could be demonstrated using a probe specific to the genus Pseudo-nitzschia as an example. Thus, for both qualitative and quantitative purposes, microarray techniques can be valuable additions to traditional methods for phytoplankton analysis. Routine monitoring approaches in particular could benefit from advantages like reduced effort, higher taxonomic resolution and a potential for automation.