Effect of environmental factors on the synthesis of scytonemin, a UV-screening pigment, in a cyanobacterium (Chroococcidiopsis sp.)
The UV-screening pigment scytonemin is found in many species of ensheathed cyanobacteria. Past work has shown that the pigment is synthesized in response to exposure to UV-A irradiance. This study investigated the effect of other correlated stress factors including heat, osmotic and oxidative stress on the synthesis of scytonemin in a clonal cyanobacterial isolate (Chroococcidiopsis sp.) from an epilithic desert crust. Stress experiments were carried out both in conjunction with UV-A irradiance and in isolation. Increases in both temperature and photooxidative conditions in conjunction with UV-A caused a synergistic increase in the rate of scytonemin production. In contrast, increased salt concentration under UV-A irradiance inhibited scytonemin synthesis. However, unlike the responses to temperature and oxidative stress, cells synthesized low levels of scytonemin under osmotic stress in the absence of scytonemin-inducing irradiance. These results suggest that scytonemin induction may be regulated as a part of a complex stress response pathway in which multiple environmental signals affect its synthesis.
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