, Volume 37, Issue 10, pp 1060-1062

First online:

The status of blue-green bile pigments of butterflies, and their phototransformations

  • M. BarbierAffiliated withInstitut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles, CNRS

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Blue-green bile pigments are found in adults or larvae of many species of butterfly. They are reviewed here. In contrast to the presence of biliverdin IX α1 in some insect species, many Lepidoptera contain pterobilin2 (biliverdin IX γ), phorcabilin3, and sarpedobilin4, derived from2 by cyclization. Pigments3 and4 are members of a new natural family of heterocyclic systems which can also be obtainedin vitro from2, by irradiation under visible light. This review presents the information so far available about the chemistry and biochemistry of these pigments, together with a discussion about the possible biological significance of their photosensitivity.