• growth;
  • Karlodinium;
  • karlotoxin;
  • pigments;
  • strain

Karlodinium veneficum (D. Ballant.) J. Larsen strains, 16 from the U.S. Atlantic eastern seaboard and two from New Zealand (CAWD66 and CAWD83), were used to characterize toxin profiles during batch culture. All 18 strains were determined as the same species based on ITS sequence analyses, a positive signal in a chloroplast real-time PCR assay and pigment composition. Five karlotoxin 1 (KmTx 1) containing strains were analyzed from the Chesapeake Bay, and 10 karlotoxin 2 (KmTx 2) strains were analyzed from Florida to North Carolina. One strain (MD5) from the Chesapeake Bay produced no detectable toxin. The two cultures from New Zealand contained both novel karlotoxins with lower masses and earlier elution times. Toxin type did not change during batch culture, although the KmTx phenotype did change in some strains under extensive (months) phototrophic growth in replete media. KmTx cell quota did not change during batch culture for most strains. The mass spectrum for every KmTx examined showed a pattern of multiple coeluting congeners within each HPLC peak, with masses typically differing by 16 amu. KmTx congeners tested showed nearly a 500-fold range in specific hemolytic activity, with KmTx 1 (typically occurring at lower cellular levels) most hemolytic and CAWD66 toxin least hemolytic, while KmTx 2 and the CAWD83 toxin had similar intermediate specific activity. Despite morphological, genetic, and photopigment indicators consistent with species homogeneity among the 18 strains of K. veneficum, the high degree of toxin variability suggests different functional roles among strains that likely coexist in situ.