Biologically active molecules from marine microalgae

Ippolito, Giuliana d' (2006). Biologically active molecules from marine microalgae. PhD thesis The Open University.



Diatoms are unicellular photosynthetic microalgae responsible for approximately 40% of marine primary productivity. This algal class has traditionally been regarded as providing the bulk of the food that sustains the marine food chain to top consumers and important fisheries. However, this beneficial role has recently been questioned on the basis of laboratory and field studies showing that although dominant zooplankton grazers such as copepods feed extensively on diatoms, the hatching success of eggs thus produced is seriously impaired. Short chain polyunsaturated aldehydes, such as 2,4,7-decatrienal and 2,4-decadienal, were correlated to the antiproliferative effect of diatoms on copepod reproduction. After establishing a method of analysis, the aldehyde profile of some ecologically relevant species of marine diatoms was assessed. The results showed that the production of aldehydes is species-specific. Detailed chemical analysis revealed the presence of fatty acid derivatives other than aldehydes such as hydroxyacids, ketoacids, oxoacids and epoxyalcohols, increasing the complexity of a chemical defence of diatoms mediated only by aldehydes. All these compounds belong to a class of compounds called oxylipins, that are oxygenated compounds biosynthesized from fatty acids by oxygenasecatalyzed oxygenation. Marine diatoms are able to produce the major antiproliferative oxylipins by a novel oxygenase-dependent oxidation of C16 fatty acids hexadecatrienoic acid (16:3 (w-4) and hexadecatetrenoic acid (16:4 (w-1), and C2o eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5 (w-3). This process is triggered by lypolitic acyl hydrolase activity, that feeds the downstream lipoxygenase pathway. The ecological meaning of the oxylipin pathway in the diatom-copepod interactions is discussed, showing that attention should move from single compounds to complex biochemical process. The deleterious effect on copepod reproduction could be due to a biochemical process such as the generation of an high oxidative potential, rather than only by aldehydes or other secondary oxygenated products, that when present can co-occur to produce the final effect.

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