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Cell Mol Biol Res. 1995;41(5):391-5.

Melatonin immunoreactivity in the photosynthetic prokaryote Rhodospirillum rubrum: implications for an ancient antioxidant system.

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Department of Biological Sciences, St. Mary's University, San Antonio, TX 78228-8511, USA.


Rhodospirillum rubrum is a spiral anoxygenic photosynthetic bacterium that can exist under either aerobic or anaerobic conditions. The organism thrives in the presence of light or complete darkness and represents one of the oldest species of living organisms, possibly 2-3.5 billion years old. The success of this prokaryotic species may be attributed to the evolution of certain indole compounds that offer protection against life-threatening oxygen radicals produced by an evolutionary harsh environment. Melatonin, N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is an indolic highly conserved molecule that exists in protists, plants, and animals. This study was undertaken to determine the presence of an immunoreactive melatonin in the kingdom Monera and particularly in the photosynthetic bacterium, R. rubrum, under conditions of prolonged darkness or prolonged light. Immunoreactive melatonin was measured during both the extended day and extended night. Significantly more melatonin was observed during the scotophase than the photophase. This study marks the first demonstration of melatonin in a bacterium. The high level of melatonin observed in bacteria may provide on-site protection of bacterial DNA against free radical attack.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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