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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011 Oct 3;9(11):791-802. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2649.

Microbial ultraviolet sunscreens.

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School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287, USA.


Exposure to the shortest wavelengths in sunlight, ultraviolet light, constitutes a deleterious ecological factor for many microorganisms. The use of secondary metabolites as sunscreens has emerged as an important photoprotective mechanism in certain groups of large-celled microorganisms, such as cyanobacteria, fungi and many protists. In this Review, we describe our current understanding of microbial 'sunscreen' compounds, including scytonemin, the mycosporines and the naphthalene-based melanins. Study of these sunscreens has led to the discovery of new classes of compounds, new metabolic pathways, a deeper understanding of microbial photobiology and the potential for dermatological or biomedical applications.

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