Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 22, Issue 10, pp 1877–1899 | Cite as

Phlorotannin-protein interactions

  • J. Lewis Stern
  • Ann E. Hagerman
  • Peter D. Steinberg
  • Pamela K. Mason


Tannins are one of the most broadly distributed types of plant secondary compounds, and have been the focal point for many studies of plant/herbivore interactions. Tannins interact strongly with proteins, so that the fate and effects of ingested tannins are in part dependent on the mode of interaction of the tannin with dietary and endogenous proteins in an herbivore's gut. We investigated the factors affecting the precipitation of proteins by phlorotannins from three species of marine brown algae:Carpophyllum maschalocarpum, Ecklonia radiata, andLobophora variegata. Phlorotannins were precipitated by proteins in a pH-dependent and concentration-dependent fashion. Precipitation also varied as a function of the presence of reducing agent, the type of phlorotannin or protein used, and the presence of organic solvents such as hydrogen bond inhibitors. Of particular significance was the ability of some phlorotannins to oxidize and form covalent bonds with some proteins. In contrast, under similar experimental conditions three types of terrestrial tannins (procyanidins, profisetinidins, and gallotannins) apparently did not form covalent complexes with proteins. Our results suggest several ways in which the biological activity of phlorotannins may vary as a function of the properties of the gut environment of marine herbivores. Moreover, we identify specific structural characteristics of phlorotannins which affect their tendency to oxidize, and thus, their potential effects on marine herbivores.

Key Words

Tannin-protein interaction tannins hydrogen bonding protein precipitation marine brown algae phlorotannins Carpophyllum maschalocarpum Ecklonia radiata Lobophora variegata 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Lewis Stern
    • 1
  • Ann E. Hagerman
    • 2
  • Peter D. Steinberg
    • 3
  • Pamela K. Mason
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryMiami UniversityOxford
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia
  4. 4.Department of ChemistryMiami UniversityOxford

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