The distribution of mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) and the phylogenetic identity of symbiotic dinoflagellates in cnidarian hosts from the Mexican Caribbean

Anastazia T. Banaszak, Maria Guadalupe Barba Santos, Todd C. LaJeunesse, Michael P. Lesser

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A survey of 54 species of symbiotic cnidarians that included hydrozoan corals, anemones, gorgonians and scleractinian corals was conducted in the Mexican Caribbean for the presence of mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) in the host as well as the Symbiodinium fractions. The host fractions contained relatively simple MAA profiles, all harbouring between one and three MAAs, principally mycosporine-glycine followed by shinorine and porphyra-334 in smaller amounts. Symbiodinium populations were identified to sub-generic levels using PCR-DGGE analysis of the Internal Transcribed Spacer 2 (ITS2) region. Regardless of clade identity, all Symbiodinium extracts contained MAAs, in contrast to the pattern that has been found in cultures of Symbiodinium, where clade A symbionts produced MAAs whereas clade B, C, D, and E symbionts did not. Under natural conditions between one and four MAAs were identified in the symbiont fractions, mycosporine-glycine (λmax = 310 nm), shinorine (λmax = 334 nm), porphyra-334 (λmax = 334 nm) and palythine (λmax = 320 nm). One sample also contained mycosporine-2-glycine (λmax = 331 nm). These data suggest that Symbiodinium is restricted to producing five MAAs and there also appears to be a defined order of appearance of these MAAs: mycosporine-glycine followed by shinorine (in one case mycosporine-2-glycine), then porphyra-334 and palythine. Overall, mycosporine-glycine was found in highest concentrations in the host and symbiont extracts. This MAA, unlike many other MAAs, absorbs within the ultraviolet-B range (UVB, 280-320 nm) and is also known for moderate antioxidant properties thus potentially providing protection against the direct and indirect effects of UVR. No depth-dependent changes could be identified due to a high variability of MAA concentrations when all species were included in the analysis. The presence of at least one MAA in all symbiont and host fractions analyzed serves to highlight the importance of MAAs, and in particular the role of mycosporine-glycine, as photoprotectants in the coral reef environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-146
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 3 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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