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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2013 Feb;97(3):993-1004. doi: 10.1007/s00253-012-4642-7. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

Radiation-resistant extremophiles and their potential in biotechnology and therapeutics.

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Division of Biological and Health Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, 300 Campus Drive, Bradford, PA 16701, USA.


Extremophiles are organisms able to thrive in extreme environmental conditions. Microorganisms with the ability to survive high doses of radiation are known as radioresistant or radiation-resistant extremophiles. Excessive or intense exposure to radiation (i.e., gamma rays, X-rays, and particularly UV radiation) can induce a variety of mutagenic and cytotoxic DNA lesions, which can lead to different forms of cancer. However, some populations of microorganisms thrive under different types of radiation due to defensive mechanisms provided by primary and secondary metabolic products, i.e., extremolytes and extremozymes. Extremolytes (including scytonemin, mycosporine-like amino acids, shinorine, porphyra-334, palythine, biopterin, and phlorotannin, among others) are able to absorb a wide spectrum of radiation while protecting the organism's DNA from being damaged. The possible commercial applications of extremolytes include anticancer drugs, antioxidants, cell-cycle-blocking agents, and sunscreens, among others. This article aims to review the strategies by which microorganisms thrive in extreme radiation environments and discuss their potential uses in biotechnology and the therapeutic industry. The major challenges that lie ahead are also discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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