Single filaments of Planktothrix spp. were isolated from laboratory cultures of P. agardhii (NIES 595) and P. rubescens (SL 03) and from four freshwater lakes in England and Turkey Filament lengths were measured and microcystins were extracted by freeze-thawing and boiling. Microcystin analysis of the isolated single filaments was performed by ELISA using antibodies raised against microcystin-LR with a minimum detection limit (MDL) of 11 pg filament(-1). In some cases a high percentage of the filaments from the environmental samples and laboratory cultures were below the MDL of the assay Based on the filaments with detectable microcystin contents, P. agardhii from Bassenthwaite Lake (England) had the lowest mean microcystin concentration (0.7 fg mu m(-3)), and the highest microcystin concentration (2.9 fg mu m(-1)) was measured in P. rubescens from Iznik Lake (Turkey). We investigated the relationship for filaments with microcystin contents above MDL and their biovolume. Relationships varied widely although P. agardhii from Bassenthwaite showed a better (positive) relationship between filament biovolume and microcystin content than P. rubescens from environmental samples. Under culture conditions, P. rubescens showed a good relationship between filament biovolume and toxin content. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.