The increasing incidence of harmful algal blooms around the world and their associated health and economic effects require the development of methods to rapidly and accurately detect and enumerate the target species. Here we describe use of a solid-phase cytometer to detect and enumerate the toxic alga Prymnesium parvum in natural samples, using a specific monoclonal antibody and indirect immunofluorescence. The immunoglobulin G antibody 16E4 exhibited narrow specificity in that it recognized several P. parvum strains and a Prymnesium nemamethecum strain but it did not cross-react with P. parvum strains from Scandinavia or any other algal strains, including species of the closely related genus Chrysochromulina. Prymnesium sp. cells labeled with 16E4 were readily detected by the solid-phase cytometer because of the large fluorescence signal and the signal/noise ratio. Immunofluorescence detection and enumeration of cultured P. parvum cells preserved with different fixatives showed that the highest cell counts were obtained when cells were fixed with either glutaraldehyde or formaldehyde plus the cell protectant Pluronic F-68, whereas the use of formaldehyde alone resulted in significantly lower counts. Immunofluorescence labeling and analysis with the solid-phase cytometer of fixed natural samples from a bloom of P. parvum occurring in Lake Colorado in Texas gave cell counts that were close to those obtained by the traditional method of counting using light microscopy. These results show that a solid-phase cytometer can be used to rapidly enumerate natural P. parvum cells and that it could be used to detect other toxic algae, with an appropriate antibody or DNA probe.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2006, Vol 72, Issue 1, p. 860-868