Evidence regarding the UV sunscreen role of a mycosporine-like compound in the cyanobacterium Gloeocapsa sp.

F. Garcia-Pichel, C. E. Wingard, R. W. Castenholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

239 Scopus citations


The UV sunscreen role commonly ascribed to mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) was investigated with an isolate of the terrestrial cyanobacterium Gloeocapsa sp. strain G-90-Cal-G.(2), which accumulates intracellularly an MAA with absorbance maximum at 326 nm but produces no extracellular sunscreen compound (i.e., scytonemin). The intracellular concentrations of MAA achieved were directly related to the intensity of the UV radiation (maximum at 320 nm) received by the cells. However, the presence of high concentrations of MAA was not necessary for the physiological acclimation of the cultures to UV radiation. The measured sunscreen factor due to MAA in single cells was 0.3 (the MAA prevented 3 out of 10 photons from hitting potential cytoplasmic targets). High contents of MAA in the cells correlated with increased resistance to UV radiation. However, when resistance was gauged under conditions of desiccation, with inoperative physiological photoprotective and repair mechanisms, cells with high MAA specific contents were only 20 to 25% more resistant. Although UV radiation centered around both 320 and 365 nm resulted in chlorophyll a photobleaching and photoinhibition of photosynthesis, the difference in sensitivity correlated with MAA accumulation occurred only at 320 nm (absorbed by MAA) and not at 365 nm (not absorbed by MAA). This difference represents the maximal protection ascribable to the presence of MAA for single cells, i.e., if one does not consider the enhancing effects of colony formation on protection by sunscreens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-176
Number of pages7
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology

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