The South African Hartbeespoort Dam is known for the occurrence of heavy Microcystis blooms. Although a
few other cyanobacterial genera have been described, no detailed study on those cyanobacteria and their potential toxin
production has been conducted. The diversity of cyanobacterial species and toxins is most probably underestimated. To
ascertain the cyanobacterial composition and presence of cyanobacterial toxins in Hartbeespoort Dam, water samples
were collected in April 2011. In a polyphasic approach, 27 isolated cyanobacterial strains were classified morphologically
and phylogenetically and tested for microcystins (MCs), cylindrospermopsin (CYN), saxitoxins (STXs) and anatoxin-a
(ATX) by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) and screened for toxin-encoding gene
fragments. The isolated strains were identified as Sphaerospermopsis reniformis, Sphaerospermopsis aphanizomenoides,
Cylindrospermopsis curvispora, Raphidiopsis curvata, Raphidiopsis mediterrranea and Microcystis aeruginosa. Only
one of the Microcystis strains (AB2011/53) produced microcystins (35 variants). Forty-one microcystin variants were
detected in the environmental sample from Hartbeespoort Dam, suggesting the existence of other microcystin producing
strains in Hartbeespoort Dam. All investigated strains tested negative for CYN, STXs and ATX and their encoding genes.
The mcyE gene of the microcystin gene cluster was found in the microcystin-producing Microcystis strain AB2011/53 and
in eight non-microcystin-producing Microcystis strains, indicating that mcyE is not a good surrogate for microcystin
production in environmental samples.