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Cyanoprokarote, cryptophyte, and rhodophyte algae possess high concentrations of phycobilin pigments. The Phycobili family is a pigment-protein complex including phycocyanin, allophycocyanin, and phycoerythrin. It is an accessory pigment to chlorophyll and is found especially in cyanobacteria. Accurate detection of these pigments is essential for use in calibrating absorbance in remote sensing or in physiological studies. The unique absorbance properties of the phycobilin pigments particularly phycoerythrin (ERYTH) and phycocyanin (CYAN) can be used to differentiate cyanobacteria from other planktonic blooms in freshwater and marine systems. Many freshwater coccoid cyanoprokaryota have elevated concentrations of CYAN, whereas filamentous freshwater taxa typically have elevated ERYTH levels. Examples of harmful algal bloom (HAB) species known to contain ERYTH and CYAN would include off-flavor producing taxa such as Pseudanabaena, Anabaena, Dolichospermum, and Planktothrix as well as toxin forming coccoid and filamentous forms such as Microcystis and Planktothrix.


BSA Environmental Services provides multiple methods for identification and enumeration of potentially toxigenic (PTOX) cyanobacteria species and provides detection and quantification of toxins in biological systems using multiple methods, allowing our clients to utilize the most appropriate test based on their budget and for the specific location or project of interest. New detection methodologies have continued to evolve in recent years, including the use of phycobilin pigment analysis involving sonication and spectrophotometric analyses. We provide exceptional phycobilin pigment detection services by spectrophotometric analysis with results that can be relied upon to help our government and commercial clients effectively monitor drinking and recreational water quality and make timely management decisions.




BSA provides phycobilin pigment detection for three pigments of phycobilins, each measured to understand the relationship between coccoid and filamentous planktonic and benthic forms. Each of the three phycobilin pigments are measured to understand the relationship between coccoid and filamentous planktonic and benthic forms and the cyanobacteria community present. Procedures for phycobilin analyses were recently revised by Zimba (2013), who identify an improved phycocyanin extraction method compared to current methods. These improved methods replaced phosphate buffer with asolectin:CHAPS solution for higher efficiency extraction (by up to 30%) in buffer coupled with additional digestion steps using enzymes, repeated freeze and thawing cycles, followed by filtration, and spectrophotometric analyses. Concentration of pigments used equations for phycobilins in Bennett and Bogorad (1973).