Evaluation of the MIDTAL microarray chip for monitoring toxic microalgae in the Orkney Islands, U.K.

Joe D. Taylor, Marco Berzano, Linda Percy, Jane Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Harmful or nuisance algal blooms can cause economic damage to fisheries and tourism. Additionally, toxins produced by harmful algae and ingested via contaminated shellfish can be potentially fatal to humans. The seas around the Orkney Islands, UK currently hold a number of toxic algal species which cause shellfishery closures in most years. Extensive and costly monitoring programs are carried out to detect harmful microalgae before they reach action levels. However, the ability to distinguish between toxic and non-toxic strains of some algae is not possible using these methods. The microarrays for the detection of toxic algae (MIDTAL) microarray contains rRNA probes for toxic algal species/strains which have been adapted and optimized for microarray use. In order to investigate the use of the chip for monitoring in the Orkney Islands, samples were collected between 2009 and 2011 from Brings Deep, Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, UK; RNA was extracted and hybridized with generation 2 and 3.1 of the chip. The data were then compared to cell counts performed under light microscopy and in the case of Alexandrium tamarense to qPCR data targeting the saxitoxin gene and the LSU-rRNA gene. A good agreement between cell numbers and microarray signal was found for A. tamarense, Pseudo-nitzschia sp., Dinophysis sp. (r < 0.5, for all) in addition to this there the chip successfully detected a large bloom of Karenia mikimotoi (r < 0.70) in August and September 2011. Overall, there was good improvement in probe signal between generation 2 and generation 3.1 of the chip with much less variability and more consistent results and better correlation between the probes. The chip performed well for A. tamarense group I signal to cell numbers in calibrations (r > 0.9). However, in field samples, this correlation was slightly lower suggesting interactions between all species in the sample may affect signal. Overall, the chip showed it could identify the presence of target species in field samples although some work is needed to improve the quantitative nature of the chip before it would be suitable for monitoring in the Orkney Islands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6765-6777
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2013


  • Alexandrium tamarense
  • Dinophysis
  • Harmful algae
  • Karenia mikimotoi
  • Microarray
  • Monitoring
  • Orkney islands
  • qPCR


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