Date: 18 Apr 2010

Photoprotective compounds from marine organisms

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The substantial loss in the stratospheric ozone layer and consequent increase in solar ultraviolet radiation on the earth’s surface have augmented the interest in searching for natural photoprotective compounds in organisms of marine as well as freshwater ecosystems. A number of photoprotective compounds such as mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs), scytonemin, carotenoids and several other UV-absorbing substances of unknown chemical structure have been identified from different organisms. MAAs form the most common class of UV-absorbing compounds known to occur widely in various marine organisms; however, several compounds having UV-screening properties still need to be identified. The synthesis of scytonemin, a predominant UV-A-photoprotective pigment, is exclusively reported in cyanobacteria. Carotenoids are important components of the photosynthetic apparatus that serve both light-harvesting and photoprotective functions, either by direct quenching of the singlet oxygen or other toxic reactive oxygen species or by dissipating the excess energy in the photosynthetic apparatus. The production of photoprotective compounds is affected by several environmental factors such as different wavelengths of UVR, desiccation, nutrients, salt concentration, light as well as dark period, and still there is controversy about the biosynthesis of various photoprotective compounds. Recent studies have focused on marine organisms as a source of natural bioactive molecules having a photoprotective role, their biosynthesis and commercial application. However, there is a need for extensive work to explore the photoprotective role of various UV-absorbing compounds from marine habitats so that a range of biotechnological and pharmaceutical applications can be found.

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