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Enzyme Microb Technol. 1996 Sep;19(4):311-7.

Fungal melanins and their interactions with metals.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, Dublin City University, Ireland.


Fungal melanins are dark brown or black pigments located in cell walls. They also exist as extracellular polymers. Melanized fungi possess increased virulence and resistance to microbial attack as well as enhanced survival while under environmental stress. Melanins contain various functional groups which provide an array of multiple nonequivalent binding sites for metal ions. Pigmented Cladosporium cladosporoides was shown to biosorb 2.5- to four-fold more Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd, and Pb than albino Penicillium digitatum and at four- to six-fold higher rates. Metal desorption was significantly lower for extracellular melanin than from pigmented or albino biomass which indicated the strength of the melanin-metal bond. At equilibrium, tributyltin chloride (TBTC) concentrations of 2.5 mM, pigmented and albino Aureobasidium pullulans absorbed approximately 0.9 and 0.7 mumol TBTC mg -1 dry wt, respectively, whereas purified extracellular melanin exhibited uptake levels of approximately 22 mumol TBTC mg-1 dry wt at an equilibrium concentration of only 0.4 mM. Addition of melanin to the growth medium reduced the toxic effect of CuSO4 and TBTC due to melanin metal binding and sequestration.

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