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The research groups - Biosphere

Université de Liège (ULg)
Center for Protein Engineering

Promotor: Dr. Wilmotte Annick


Our research themes are concentrated on the diversity, taxonomy and evolution of cyanobacteria in diverse biotopes. At present, these biotopes range from planktonic habitats in freshwater lakes in Europe or in Africa (example: lake Tanganyika), microbial mats in Antarctic and Arctic lakes, and symbioses with Azolla species. We were involved in the characterisation of picoplanktonic cyanobacteria in the Southern Ocean and are presently carrying out similar work in the Arctic Sea.
We use a polyphasic approach to better assess the diversity. This includes the microscopic observations and genomic characterisations, based on sequences of molecular taxonomic markers like the 16S rRNA.
We have also isolated cyanobacterial strains from Antarctic microbial mats, and characterise their morphological and genotypic features. The molecular tools currently carried out are based on the method, Denaturating Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (PCR) and with clone libraries.

We are also using genes involved in the production of microcystins (hepatotoxins that are produced by several planktonic cyanobacteria in freshwater lakes) to follow the presence of toxigenic cyanobacteria in Belgian waters, and are involved in the assessment of the importance of toxic blooms in Belgium.

In order to obtain an idea of the paleodiversity of cyanobacteria in the last 10000 years, we have studied the possibility to use 16S rRNA sequences directly retrieved from Antarctic sediment cores.

In the frame of the ESA project MELISSA, we are involved in the study of the effect of stresses on the genome of the cyanobacterium Arthrospira PCC8005, and the sequencing of its whole genome, that will start in 2006.


A. Wilmotte is currently second contact person of the IPY project MERGE (Microbiological and Ecological Responses to Global Environmental Changes in Polar Regions).
A. Wilmotte is coordinator of the Support Action funded by BELSPO, BE-POLES

Main field of activity in polar regions

Our polar research is currently mainly focused on the study of the present and past diversity, taxonomy and biogeography of Antarctic single-celled micro-organisms, and their application to reconstruct past climate and environmental change.

List of projects

Research Group Team

Publication list

Peer reviewed papers

A. Wilmotte, C. Demonceau, A. Goffart, J.-H. Hecq, V. Demoulin & A.C. Crossley (2002) Molecular and Pigment Studies of the picophytoplankton in a region of the Southern Ocean (47 to 54°S, 141 to 144 °E) in March 1998. Deep Sea Research II, F.I.: 1.1610, 49, 3351-3363

A. Taton, S. Grubisic, E. Brambilla, R. De Wit, & A. Wilmotte (2003). Cyanobacterial Diversity in Natural and Artificial Microbial Mats of Lake Fryxell (McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica): a Morphological and Molecular Approach. Appl. Environ. Microbiol, F.I.: 3.6910, 69, 5157-5169.

Sabbe K., D. Hodgson, E. Verleyen, A. Taton, A. Wilmotte, K.Vanhoutte and W. Vyverman (2004) - Effects of physical disturbance, salinity and light regime on microbial mat structure and composition in continental Antarctic lakes (Larsemann Hills and Bølingen Islands). Freshwater Ecology, 49:296-319.

Hodgson D.A., W. Vyverman, E. Verleyen, K. Sabbe, P.R. Leavitt, A. Taton, A.H. Squier & B.J.K. Keely (2004) - Environmental factors influencing the pigment composition of in situ benthic microbial communities in east Antarctic lakes. Aquatic Microbial Ecology, 37:247-263.

Komárek J., A. Taton, J. Suleka, A. Wilmotte, K. Kastovská & J. Elster - Ultrastructure and taxonomic position of the cyanobacterium Schizothrix. Cryptogamie/Algologie, in press.

Taton A., S. Grubisic, P. Balthasart & A. Wilmotte – Biogeographical distribution and ecological ranges of benthic cyanobacteria in East Antarctic lakes. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, in press.

C. Boutte, S. Grubisic, P. Balthasart and A. Wilmotte - Testing of primers for the study of cyanobacterial molecular diversity by DGGE. Journal of Microbiological Methods, in press,

Taton A., S. Grubisic, D. Ertz, D. Hodgson, R. Piccardi, N. Biondi, M. Tredici, M. Mainini , D. Losi, F. Marinelli & A. Wilmotte - Polyphasic study of the diversity and evolution of Antarctic cyanobacterial strains. Journal of Phycology, submitted.

Not refereed publications/book chapters

Schmoker C., A. Taton, P. Balthasart, S. Grubisic, D.A. Hodgson & A. Wilmotte (2005) - Which cyanobacterial genotypes are observed in microbial mats of antarctic lakes? Terra Antarctica Reports, 11:51-56.

Gibson J.A.E, A. Wilmotte, A. Taton, B. van de Vijver & H. Dartnall - Biogeographical trends in Antarctic lake communities. Book chapter edited by RiSSC, Kluwer, in press.

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