Determination of Microcystin-LR in Municipal Water Using HPLC-UV/Vis

Alyssa Melvin


Algae is a natural and important component of freshwater ecosystems, but blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, release toxins called microcystin (MC) when they die or are lysed, posing substantial health concerns. In recent years, these toxic algae blooms have formed on western Lake Erie and have threatened drinking water supplies. Globally there are multiple variants of MC found in drinking water; however, MC-LR, a cyclic heptapeptide defined by its leucine (L) and arginine (R) constituents, is the most harmful variant in regards to its acute toxicity. The World Health Organization established a maximum contaminant level of 1 microgram/liter for MC-LR in drinking water. Since local municipal water treatment facilities source water from Lake Erie, it is important to monitor MC-LR throughout the treatment process. The standard method for detecting MC-LR is the ELISA assay, which has been shown to have unreliable identification, often leading to false positives. This research aims to develop a highly sensitive protocol for our local municipal water provider which uses high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with ultra violet-visible spectroscopy (UV/Vis) to detect and quantify MC-LR. Water samples will be acquired from the water treatment facility at various stages of the purification process. These samples will be lysed in order to release all MC from the algal blooms, purified by solid-phase extraction, and detected using HPLC-UV/Vis. The results from this protocol will be compared to data acquired from the ELISA assay. The development of a rapid, reliable, and relatively inexpensive protocol for detecting MC-LR could be applied to multiple municipal water providers in communities whose water may be at risk of contamination from toxic algae blooms.


microcystin-LR, HPLC, cyanobacteria

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