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J Chem Ecol. 2005 Jan;31(1):195-212.

Contents of soluble, cell-wall-bound and exuded phlorotannins in the brown alga Fucus vesiculosus, with implications on their ecological functions.

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Section of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku, FIN-20014, Turku, Finland.


Phlorotannins are ubiquitous secondary metabolites in brown algae that are phenotypically plastic and suggested to have multiple ecological roles. Traditionally, phlorotannins have been quantified as total soluble phlorotannins. Here, we modify a quantification procedure to measure, for the first time, the amount of cell-wall-bound phlorotannins. We also optimize the quantification of soluble phlorotannins. We use these methods to study the responses of soluble and cell-wall-bound phlorotannin to nutrient enrichment in growing and nongrowing parts of the brown alga Fucus vesiculosus. We also examine the effects of nutrient shortage and herbivory on the rate of phlorotannin exudation. Concentrations of cell-wall-bound phlorotannins were much lower than concentrations of soluble phlorotannins; we also found that nutrient treatment over a period of 41 days affected only soluble phlorotannins. Concentrations of each phlorotannin type correlated positively between growing and nongrowing parts of individual seaweeds. However, within nongrowing thalli, soluble and cell-wall-bound phlorotannins were negatively correlated, whereas within growing thalli there was no correlation. Phlorotannins were exuded from the thallus in all treatments. Herbivory increased exudation, while a lack of nutrients had no effect on exudation. Because the amount of cell-wall-bound phlorotannins is much smaller than the amount of soluble phlorotannins, the major function of phlorotannins appears to be a secondary one.

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