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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1993 Jan;59(1):163-9.

Occurrence of UV-Absorbing, Mycosporine-Like Compounds among Cyanobacterial Isolates and an Estimate of Their Screening Capacity.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403.


A survey of 20 strains of cyanobacteria (belonging to 13 genera) isolated from habitats exposed to strong insolation revealed that 13 strains contained one or more water-soluble, UV-absorbing, mycosporine amino acid (MAA)-like compounds. Some of the compounds were identical in several strains. In all, 13 distinct compounds were found. The UV absorption spectra of MAAs complemented well that of the extracellular sunscreen pigment scytonemin, which many of the strains also produced. Even though the specific MAA contents were variable among strains, they were invariably higher when the cultures were grown with UV radiation than when it was absent. In five strains tested, the MAA complement accumulated as a solute in the cytoplasmic cell fraction. The sunscreen capacities of MAA and scytonemin and their combined capacity were estimated for each strain and condition on the basis of the specific contents, cell size, and cellular location of the compounds. The estimates suggested that significant, albeit not complete, protection from UV photodamage could be gained from the possession of either MAA or scytonemin but especially from simultaneous screening by both types of compounds.

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