Mycosporine-like amino acids from coral dinoflagellates

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Rosic, NN & Dove, S 2011, 'Mycosporine-like amino acids from coral dinoflagellates', Applied and Environmental Microbiology, vol. 77, no. 4, pp. 8478-8486.

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Coral reefs are one of the most important marine ecosystems, providing habitat for approximately a quarter of all marine organisms. Within the foundation of this ecosystem, reef-building corals form mutualistic symbioses with unicellular photosynthetic dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium. Exposure to UV radiation (UVR) (280 to 400 nm) especially when combined with thermal stress has been recognized as an important abiotic factor leading to the loss of algal symbionts from coral tissue and/or a reduction in their pigment concentration and coral bleaching. UVR may damage biological macromolecules, increase the level of mutagenesis in cells, and destabilize the symbiosis between the coral host and their dinoflagellate symbionts. In nature, corals and other marine organisms are protected from harmful UVR through several important photoprotective mechanisms that include the synthesis of UV-absorbing compounds such as mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs). MAAs are small (<400-Da), colorless, water-soluble compounds made of a cyclohexenone or cyclohexenimine chromophore that is bound to an amino acid residue or its imino alcohol. These secondary metabolites are natural biological sunscreens characterized by a maximum absorbance in the UVA and UVB ranges of 310 to 362 nm. In addition to their photoprotective role, MAAs act as antioxidants scavenging reactive oxygen species (ROS) and suppressing singlet oxygen-induced damage. It has been proposed that MAAs are synthesized during the first part of the shikimate pathway, and recently, it has been suggested that they are synthesized in the pentose phosphate pathway. The shikimate pathway is not found in animals, but in plants and microbes, it connects the metabolism of carbohydrates to the biosynthesis of aromatic compounds. However, both the complete enzymatic pathway of MAA synthesis and the extent of their regulation by environmental conditions are not known. This minireview discusses the current knowledge of MAA synthesis, illustrates the diversity of MAA functions, and opens new perspectives for future applications of MAAs in biotechnology.

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