The structure of scytonemin, an ultraviolet sunscreen pigment from the sheaths of cyanobacteria

P. J. Proteau, W. H. Gerwick, Ferran Garcia-Pichel, R. Castenholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

260 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite knowledge of the existence of the pigment called scytonemin for over 100 years, its structure has remained unsolved until now. This pigment, the first shown to be an effective, photo-stable ultraviolet shield in prokaryotes, is a novel dimeric molecule (molec. wt. 544) of indolic and phenolic subunits and is known only from the sheaths enclosing the cells of cyanobacteria. It is probable that scytonemin is formed from a condensation of tryptophan-and phenylpropanoid-derived subunits. The linkage between these units is unique among natural products and this novel ring structure is here termed the 'scytoneman skeleton'. Scytonemin absorbs strongly and broadly in the spectral region 325-425 nm (UV-A-violet-blue, with an in vivo maximum at 370 nm). However, there is also major absorption in the UV-C (λmax=250nm) and UV-B (280-320 nm). The pigment has been recently shown to provide significant protection to cyanobacteria against damage by ultraviolet radiation. The pigment occurs in all phylogenetic lines of sheathed cyanobacteria and possibly represents a UV screening strategy far more ancient than that of plant flavonoids and animal melanins. How diverse organisms deal with UV radiation is considered of vital importance to global ecology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-829
Number of pages5
JournalExperientia
Volume49
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1993
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Sun hoods
Sunscreening Agents
Cyanobacteria
Pigments
Ultraviolet radiation
Radiation
Viola
ecology
damages
animal
Melanins
Ecology
Biological Products
Flavonoids
Skeleton
Tryptophan
Condensation
Screening
Animals
Molecules

Keywords

  • blue green algae
  • cyanobacteria
  • Indole alkaloid
  • natural products
  • UV-sunscreen pigment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Cite this

The structure of scytonemin, an ultraviolet sunscreen pigment from the sheaths of cyanobacteria. / Proteau, P. J.; Gerwick, W. H.; Garcia-Pichel, Ferran; Castenholz, R.

In: Experientia, Vol. 49, No. 9, 09.1993, p. 825-829.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Proteau, P. J. ; Gerwick, W. H. ; Garcia-Pichel, Ferran ; Castenholz, R. / The structure of scytonemin, an ultraviolet sunscreen pigment from the sheaths of cyanobacteria. In: Experientia. 1993 ; Vol. 49, No. 9. pp. 825-829.
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