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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 10  |  Page : 138-146  

Mycosporine and mycosporine-like amino acids: A paramount tool against ultra violet irradiation

1 Department of Pharmacognosy, P. D. M. College of Pharmacy, Bahadurgarh, Haryana, India
2 Department of Pharmacognosy, RV Northland College of Pharmacy, Greater Noida, India
3 Department of Pharmacognosy, Poona College of Pharmacy, Pune, India

Date of Submission05-Sep-2010
Date of Decision10-Nov-2011
Date of Web Publication23-Dec-2011

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh Bhatia
Assistant professor, PDM college of pharmacy, Bahadurgarh, Haryana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0973-7847.91107

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Various facts demonstrated that UVB is harmful to organisms. Sunscreen compounds are usually used to prevent the excessive damage caused by UVB. However, certain photosynthetic organisms have evolved mechanisms to counteract the toxicity of ultraviolet radiation by synthesizing UV screening compounds such as mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs). MAAs provide UV protection to primary and secondary consumers through food chain and to non-biological materials by photostabilizing action. Information related to the ecological consequence of MAAs and their spatial distribution from a wide range of organisms is accumulating. Hence, our studies seek a potent class of natural sun protective compounds to understand their relationship with environment and to develop a protocol for large-scale industrial production of these compounds so that they can find application as UV-protecting cosmetics.

Keywords: Mycosporines, sunprotectants, ultraviolet rays, UV irradiation

How to cite this article:
Bhatia S, Garg A, Sharma K, Kumar S, Sharma A, Purohit A P. Mycosporine and mycosporine-like amino acids: A paramount tool against ultra violet irradiation. Phcog Rev 2011;5:138-46

How to cite this URL:
Bhatia S, Garg A, Sharma K, Kumar S, Sharma A, Purohit A P. Mycosporine and mycosporine-like amino acids: A paramount tool against ultra violet irradiation. Phcog Rev [serial online] 2011 [cited 2019 Mar 22];5:138-46. Available from: http://www.phcogrev.com/text.asp?2011/5/10/138/91107

   Introduction Top

The environmental context

Here, we present a broader class of sun protective compounds which are obtained from various natural sources, and intending to compete with the existing sunscreen agents that are marketed. The article is based on the concept of how the defense mechanism of other kingdoms, e.g. algae (synthesize secondary metabolites for their own protection), against UV rays can be implemented in the development of sunscreen formulation against various mankind disorders (especially for skin protection). Keeping this in view, we have made an effort to fully cover the broad-spectrum photostable class of compounds known as "mycosporines", with all their reported descriptions.

Nowadays, consequences of UV rays on living beings have become an important issue. UV rays constitute different types of ranges, of which UVB is a minute but highly active and detrimental component. [1],[2],[3],[4] Under stress caused by this range, marine organisms generate a multitude of sunscreening metabolites. Thus, before furnishing any formulation against UV, it is essential to understand which group on this earth is more resistant against them. There are hundreds of photoprotective compounds present in the market. Nevertheless, so far, no compound is proved to be versatile. Owing to the presence of certain UV resistant compounds marine algae show more resistance against UV than terrestrial plants. [5],[6] The general name mycosporine is given to the fungal metabolites having absorption range at 310 or 320 nm and substituted with amino acid residues. Mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) are a family of intracellular compounds biosynthesized by shikimic acid pathway for the synthesis of aromatic amino acids involved in the protection of aquatic organisms against solar radiation. They are small (<400 Da), colorless and highly polar substances characterized by a cyclohexenone or cyclohexenimine chromophore, [7] conjugated with the nitrogen substituent of an amino acid or its imino alcohol, having absorption maxima ranging from 310 to 360 nm, with an average molecular weight of around 300 Da and were first discovered in some sporulating mycelia. In fact, these compounds accumulate within the spores of numerous and various fungi, especially those whose sporulating areas receive direct solar radiations . [8] Moreover, photostability in both distilled and sea water in the presence of photosensitizers and high resistance against physicochemical stressors like temperature, strong UVR, various solvents as well as pH make them successful photoprotectants in various habitats and organisms. [9] Their cyclic structures vary essentially according to the substituents 2-OMe (mycosporine) or 2-OH (nor-mycosporine) [Graph 1] and the amino acid functionality. [7] Generally, the ring system of MAAs contains a glycine subunit at the third carbon atom, whereas some MAAs also contain sulfate esters or glycosidic linkages through the imine substituents. [7] Differences among the absorption spectra of MAAs are due to the variations in the side groups and nitrogen substituents. [7] Till now, the chemical structures of over 30 different mycosporines [Graph 1] have been elucidated including a number of glycosylated mycosporine derivatives and recently characterized mycosporine-glutamicol-glucoside and mycosporine-glutaminol-glucoside. As shown in [Figure 1], almost all MAAs follow a common isolation procedure. [10] They have been identified in a number of taxonomically diverse organisms such as fungi, marine heterotrophic bacteria, cyanobacteria, eukaryotic marine invertebrates and a wide variety of other marine organisms. [11] Their highly photoprotective favorable properties such as high molar coefficients (ε = 28,100-50,000/M/cm), strong UV-absorption maxima and photostability, [9] and resistance to abiotic stressors increase their demand as effective sunscreening compounds. Their antioxidant nature increases the therapeutic effectiveness. Furthermore, the osmoregulation property make them an excellent example as a potent osmolyte. [12] However, in recent years, evidence is accumulating that mycosporines play additional roles such as protecting cells against salt stress, desiccation or thermal stress in certain organisms, serving as an intracellular nitrogen reservoir and their presence in fossils may be considered as potential probes to record past UV radiation (UVR) changes in the environment. So, currently, these natural amino agents are greatly experimented for their ecological and biological roles. Few reports are covered and few are in pipeline. Hence, this study focuses on several key issues concerning with the accepted roles of MAAs in environment, especially against harmful UV rays.
Figure 1: Protocol for isolation and purifi cation for MAA

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Impact of UV radiations on the environment

Year by year, the manmade progressive changes affect the stratospheric ozone layer, especially by promoting harmful zones of "UV irradiation", i.e. UVB irradiation (280-315 nm) and to some extent UVA (315-400 nm). [13],[14],[15] UVB and UVA radiation has to be considered unfavorable for the living matter and different protecting strategies have been developed to cope with their impact. Apart from a small portion near the UVA waveband, [1],[2],[3] UV irradiation is not photosynthetically active, whereas "UVC" (200-280 nm) is totally absorbed by the atmosphere and hence not of biological significance. Deep penetration of UVB radiation in the water column may affect the aquatic ecosystems. Therefore, marine organisms exhibit marvelous mechanisms to counteract the toxic effects of these rays. [6],[16],[17] UVB is a small but highly active component of the solar spectrum and causes wide range of harmful effects [13],[14] on the environment due to which the whole productivity of ecosystems may be affected. Species differ greatly in their sensitivity to UVB. Five strategies have been identified that protect organisms against UV damage, namely, production of photoprotective compounds such as MAAs, escape from ultraviolet radiation by migration into habitats with reduced light exposure, production of quenching agents, repair mechanisms and cyanobacterial chromatic adaptation. Mycosporine-glycine like compounds mainly show absorption in the UVB region, [18] but later on, as the oxygen level increases, the absorption of UVA becomes necessary because it mediates its effect through the formation of free radicals of oxygen. This change in the absorption spectrum can be achieved by replacing the ketone group with a nitrogen atom in UVB-absorbing compounds. This has a greater mesomeric effect on the benzene ring and absorbance is shifted into the UVA. A mutation in the proposed pathway of a UVB screening compound may also have caused a shift toward UVA absorption. [16, 17, 19]

Evolution of MAAs as UV-absorbing compounds

Solar light penetrates seawater with differential attenuation depending upon its wavelength. In clear tropical ocean waters, solar UV light can have a significant biological effect down to a depth of 20 m. Environmental UV light in the wavelength region 285-340 nm is damaging to biological tissues and can be physiologically detrimental or fatal to many marine forms of plant and animal life. From the earlier times, it has been known that widespread UV-absorbing compounds accumulated by extensive microorganisms play a vital role against the deleterious effects of UV irradiation. [1],[2],[3] During the early Proterozoic era, screening of harmful radiation was necessary to avoid the UV-induced destruction of complex organic molecules and this function might have been performed by organic molecules in the aqueous environment of the ancient earth. Plankton are often incapable of detecting UVB as they utilize UVA or visible light in photoreactivation [Figure 2] and [Figure 3]. [20] In the present day, algal substances are promoted not only to develop a protective shield against UV irradiations but also for a better understanding of UV adaptation from these oldest oxygenic organisms. MAAs are found in many prokaryotes which are considered to be a source for understanding the UV effects of MAAs. [21] Mycosporines are widespread in the microbial world. For example, a survey of 152 species of marine microalgae showed that they all contained such UV-absorbing compounds. [22] The accumulation of large amounts of MAAs in cyanobacteria (Microcoleus) was first reported in 1969. The morphology, physiology and 16S rRNA gene sequence of 13 MAA-containing strains were studied and a common complement of MAAs was found among them. Archean earth's first specific UV-screening molecules are not well known but it is hypothesized that aromatic moiety reaction centers were some of the earliest UV screens that later started to perform a light-harvesting role in photosynthesis. [23] The evolutionary origins of UV-screening compounds are still unknown. It is presumed that many evolved to perform other physiological roles but later fulfilled a UV-screening function under selection pressure. [21] The MAAs in eukaryotic algae are thought to have been passed from cyanobacteria in the plastidic line. If green algae were the true origin of land plants, it may be speculated that early land plants initially were dependent on MAAs instead of flavonoids, as protectants from UV radiation.[1],[16]
Figure 2: Polychromatic and photoregulatory interactions of QUVB (230– 320 nm), QUVA (320– 400 nm), and QP AR (400– 700 nm) on primary production and DNA integrity in phytoplankton. IK is the minimum QPAR requirement to saturate rates of photosynthesis; IB is the minimum QPAR light requirement to photoinhibit rates of photosynthesis

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Figure 3: The persistent effect of UV rays on development in aquatic photosynthetic organism

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Structure and biosynthesis of MAAs

Despite various progresses in synthetic chemistry, algae still constitute an important source of pharmaceuticals and other compounds of economic importance. [21] MAAs are found in various organisms from tropical to polar regions. The biosynthesis of MAAs has been suggested to occur via the first part of the shikimate pathway in both cyanobacteria and fungi. Biosynthetic pathways producing these compounds are not only species-specific, but also depend on various environmental factors. UV rays, particularly UVB exposure (UVB band, 280-315 nm), play an important role in the stimulation of biosynthetic pathways. Biosynthesis of MAAs occurs in bacteria, cyanobacteria, phytoplankton and macroalgae but not in animals due to the lack of the shikimate pathway in them. [24],[25],[26],[27] They acquire MAAs by diet transfer, symbiotic or bacterial associations. All 30 MAAs discovered [Graph 1] till now follow shikimate pathway for their biosynthesis, which reveals that 3-dehydroquinate (formed in the shikimate pathway) is the precursor for the synthesis of these fungal mycosporines and MAAs via gadusols [28] [Figure 4]. Various stimulating factors of MAA synthesis such as effect of season, development period of an organism and UV rays were noticed widely. [29] The primary MAA, mycosporine-glycine, [Graph 1] synthesized by the shikimate pathway is then transformed by chemical and/or biochemical conversions into other MAAs. Recently, this view has been challenged by the report of genes encoding the enzymes of the shikimate pathway in the genome of a marine animal. [6],[15] Prior phylogenetic analysis and genomic mining has given the evidence for the set of genes responsible for the biosynthesis of MAAs. Out of the investigated species, PCC 7937 was able to synthesize MAA [YP_324358 (predicted dehydroquinate (DHQ) synthase) and YP_324357 (O-methyltransferase)]. Identification of these genes widens the field of research for molecular, bioinformatics and phylogenetic analysis of these evolutionary and industrially important compounds. [30],[31]
Figure 4: Conventional biosynthetic pathways for the formation of MAAs via the shikimate pathway.[24] Wide gray line represents the biosynthetic connection between dehydroquinate, gadusols and MAAs

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MAAs as versatile elements

  • MAAs as photoprotectants: Site-dependent protection is afforded by MAAs in the cells by absorbing lethal doses of highly energetic UVR and then dissipating this energy in the form of harmless heat radiation to their surroundings. [32] In water, they absorb at wavelengths that penetrate relatively deeply in the water; wavelengths below 300 nm are more damaging to DNA and other cellular components. [16] Out of 10 photons, these compounds prevent 3 from striking cytoplasmic targets in cyanobacteria. [33] Under aerobic conditions, light converts mycosporine glutamine into aminocyclohexenone and 2-hydroxy glutaric acid, which is temperature-dependent photolysis. On the other side, photolysis is also observed when other photosensitizers, which are carriers of singlet oxygen, replace flavins. [34]
  • MAAs as possible sunscreening compounds: MAAs "nature's sunscreen compounds" are actively excreted and accumulated at the epidermis where they show sunscreening effect. [32] Studies on the photodegradation and photophysical characteristics have shown that MAAs are stable and effective sunscreen compounds. Recently introduced porphyra-334 isolate from Indian species of Porphyra vietnamensis has given excellent sunprotective effects against widely used Aloe vera gel. [35] However MAAs has low photodynamic reactivity when compared with several commercially available sunscreens [Graph 1]. Diverse synthetic analogues of MAAs have been developed for commercial purposes. Analogues of mycosporine-glycine (3-alkylamino-2-methoxycyclohex-2-enones) [Graph 1] and tetrahydropyridine (1-alkyl-3-alkanoyl-1, 4, 5, 6-tetrahydropyridines) were developed though they suffer some stability related problems. After a large evaluation, a product called Helioguard® 365 from the red alga, Porphyra umbilicalis, has been commercialized successfully. In addition to their sun protection in smaller organisms, [35] MAAs are also of immense importance for humans as these compounds have been found to effectively block thymine dimer formation by UVR in vitro and were recently found to provide growth stimulation activity in human cells. [36],[37],[38] As a result, MAAs have varied ecological and therapeutic significance [Figure 5].
  • Figure 5: The most concerning usage of mycosporine amino acids

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  • MAAs as antioxidant molecules: The MAA, mycosporine-glycine, functions as a biological antioxidant as it was found to effectively suppress various detrimental effects of the type-II photosensitization and decreased the level of singlet oxygen generated by eosin Y or methylene blue. [39] In nature, most of the mycosoprines exhibit high antioxidant activity by scavenging large amounts of reactive oxygen generated by supersaturated oxygen in larger depth of the water, e.g. mycosporine-glycine was found in Platygyra ryukyuensis.[35] It has been reported that mycosporine-glycine has moderate antioxidant activity, whereas 4-deoxygadusol, a precursor of MAAs, has strong antioxidant properties and its retrobiosynthesis through bacterial conversion of algal MAAs has been performed for commercial applications. On the other hand, iminomycosporine-like amino acids shinorine, porphyra-334, palythine, asterina-330, and palythinol [Graph 1] were not oxidized and hence exhibit less or no activity. It was therefore concluded that at least certain MAAs may play a role in protection by probably, more importantly, scavenging O 2 produced by certain endogenous photosensitizers. [32],[40],[41]
  • MAAs and salt stress: MAAs are highly resistant against abiotic stressors such as temperature, UV radiation, various solvents and pH. [12] They are uncharged low-molecular-weight organic substances which generally provide osmotic regulation to the cells where the surroundings of the cell is hypersaline. Freezing (binding of water into ice) and high salinity both lead to cellular dehydration and accumulation of free oxygen radicals, resulting in oxidative stress. To provide the necessary osmotic balance, most microorganisms accumulate, in the intracellular space of the cell, the so-called MAAs "osmotic solutes" or "compatible solutes", and therefore build osmotic pressure within the cell. In freshwater environments, MAAs accumulate in the cell by an osmotic mechanism in certain cyanobacteria. It is probably the highest MAA concentration ever reported; for comparison, values up to 0.8% of the cell dry weight were measured in the cyanobacterium Gloeocapsa. [12]
  • MAAs and desiccation stress: Several experiments have proven that mycosporines contributed well to the drought resistance of the organisms. When microorganisms are exposed under simultaneous drought stress conditions, mycosporines, by various mechanisms (e.g. by formation of extracellular matrix or sheath around the microorganisms in which glycosylated MAAs are embedded), resist the desiccation related stress. However, it was reported in some cases that MAA containing cells are more resistant against combination of stresses then desiccation alone. Furthermore, it was also reported that MAA alone does not provide sufficient protection against this stress. [42]
  • MAAs and thermal stress: Few evidences established a relationship between MAA formation and high-temperature stress, e.g. MAA content in the soft corals Lobophytum compactum and Sinularia flexibilis were upregulated under themal stress, and their concentrations were further enhanced during simultaneous exposure to UV. [43] On the other hand, neither increased temperature stress nor cold shock, nutrient limitation, or photooxidative stress induce MAA formation in the cyanobacterium Chlorogloeopsis PCC 6912.
  • MAAs as accessory pigments in photosynthesis: Earlier, it was considered that MAAs are fluorescent compounds and may increase the photosynthetic efficiency. Following excitation in the UVA range, emission of fluorescence at wavelengths close to the absorbance of the Soret band of chlorophyll a was observed, so that theoretically, energy transfer from MAA to chlorophyll could be possible. However, MAAs are only weakly fluorescent, if at all, and MAAs are generally most abundant in high light environments, in which light energy is not the factor for photosynthesis. So far, the early claim that MAAs may serve as accessory pigments in photosynthesis has never since been verified. [21],[27],[32]
  • MAAs in intracellular nitrogen storage: In nature, MAAs acts as intracellular nitrogenous reservoir, storing two nitrogen atoms per molecule. Whenever required, it releases nitrogen by suitable mechanism. [32]
  • Mycosporines and fungal reproduction: Mycosporines (not the direct photoproducts of fungi) were considered as biochemical markers for reproductive stages of fungi and have been related to sporulating mycelia. They are present in the mucilage that surrounds conidia of some fungi where they protect them from solar radiation. Mycosporines have also been located in the extracellular matrix and in the outer cell wall layers of microcolonial fungi. Nowadays, it is known that mycosporines are widespread among the fungal classes Zygomycetes, Deuteromycetes, Ascomycetes, and Basidiomycetes having absorption maxima at 310 nm and therefore called "P310". [15] The rate of their production varies with the wavelength of irradiation, period of irradiation, light intensity and nutritional conditions of the culture. Changes in irradiance induce a rapid response at high light intensity and short wavelengths. Nevertheless, radiance is essential only to initiate the process of mycosporine production, as its synthesis continues in the dark as well as in the light (except during sporogenesis). [8],[44]

Environmental distribution of MAAs

Mycosporines are widely distributed in nature. [45] Usually in all life forms, cells do not contain more than 1% of their dry weight as MAA. These accumulated sunscreens can be effective only in cells larger than about 100 mm. As phenylproanoids and melanin protect higher plants and animals, [40] MAAs, by absorbing harmful UV radiations, play a similar role in lower organisms. Various evidences [Table 1] for their protective function in phytoplankton have been established where high amounts of intracellular MAAs diminish the inhibitory effect of UV radiation on photosynthesis. The accumulation of MAAs protects the microalgae from inhibition of motility by UVB radiation. [22],[46] Many experimental evidences establish a relationship between MAAs and sunlight, e.g. exposure to sunlight leads to a strong increase of MAA content in Alexundrium excavutum. [31],[44] Accumulation of MAAs has also been reported to depend on the spectral composition of the light; blue light is more effective than green and red light, and UVA radiation strongly enhances MAA accumulation. There are some reports on the decreasing contents of MAAs with increasing depth, but at the same time there are cases where no relationship was obvious. Most marine macroalgae inhabit coastal regions of the sea where they attach themselves to the ground. [47] In contrast to microalgae, sessile macroalgae are not able to avoid harmful irradiation by moving to deeper regions. [22],[31],[46],[47] Therefore, they are supposed to have developed mechanisms to mitigate harmful UV radiation in their natural habitats. The highest absorption was found in red algae [5],[18] with a tendency for decreasing contents of the compound with increasing depth. MAAs are found not only in phytoplankton, cyanobacteria and macroalgae [47] [Table 1] but also in many different marine organisms. MAAs provide protection from UV radiation not only to their producers but also to the primary and secondary consumers through the food chain or symbiotic association. [48] Rather, these organisms of high trophic levels ingest MAAs with their food and are able to accumulate them in specific tissues. Mycosporines are also found in the eye tissue of several tropical marine fish and other marine organisms to improve the optical contrast in the blue water environment by filtering UVB rays. Marine vertebrates, such as teleostean fish, are largely protected from environmental UV radiation by their external scales. Earlier reports substantiated the presence of MAAs in their ocular tissue and hence provide protection against UV damage. The use of DNA microarray technology and 2-D electrophoresis will probably help in understanding the adaptation of cyanobacteria to UV stress both at genome and proteome level. [30] Much information on MAAs and scytonemin from diverse organisms has been gathered over the past few decades. This has led to the development of a database on photoprotective compounds. [49] The lack of a taxonomic pattern in the distribution and the shikimate pathway [Figure 4] as a source for mycosporines leads to the conclusion that MAAs in animals are ingested with food and concentrated by marine organisms. [16],[21],[31]
Table 1: Distribution of MAAs in some important marine organisms

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MAAs over synthetic UV blockers

According to the previous researchers, ozone depletion is not the cause for the increase in skin cancers among the present generation. Chemical agents currently present in sunscreen formulations are proved to be more harmful then the effects of ozone depletion on the skin. Also, on the contrary, sunlight exposure may actually decrease human cancer rates and improve our health. The majority of sunscreens have highly efficient absorption or reflecting capabilities throughout the whole range of UV and, in some instances, infrared wavelengths. Though a successful UV-screening compound ultimately depends upon simple organic photochemistry, π-electron found in conjugated bond structure systems are a common theme in the function and characteristics of natural UV-screening molecules. [35],[50] Due to less awareness about the dangers of constituents in chemical sunscreens, publically it is highly acceptable that application of additional chemical sunscreen to the skin before any exposure to sunlight would prevent skin cancer and protect our health. Recent researches have given the evidences of the harmful effects (radicals' generation, risks of skin cancer and estrogen like-effects) of the available chemical sunscreens in the market and their regular application to the skin. These chemical agents were proven as primary causative agents for increasing the cancer risk by virtue of their abundant free radical generating properties and estrogen-like effects. These effects are similar to many banned chemicals such as dichloro-diphenyl trichloroethane (DDT), dioxin, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), but they are still present in the market due to profit gaining purpose of the chemical industries. Most of the chemical sunscreens contain 2-5% of UVA and UVB blockers [Table 2] as the active ingredients . Most of these UV-blocker compounds are cancer causing elements, e.g. Benzophenone (and similar compounds) and Avobenzone (powerful free radical generators), Padimate-O or other p-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) derivatives (DNA damaging effects), and Triethanolamine (formation of cancer causing nitrosamines). Most of the sunscreen compounds are either UVA or UVB protective and are usually combined with other sunscreen chemicals to produce a "broad-spectrum" product. Furthermore, in sunlight, some show instability after a particular period of time. It clearly indicates the need of a potent, stable and broad-spectrum group of agents which are devoid of their hazardous effects to the skin. Here, mycosporine like amino acids stand as a good example due to their excellent antioxidant and sun protection activities without causing any harmful effects. [51]
Table 2: US FDA-approved sunscreen ingredients,1997[52]

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Evaluation of mycosporine like amino agents

Over the last several years, more efficient sunscreening ingredients have been developed for improved skin protection [Table 2]. After the discovery of the first commercial sunscreen in 1928, till now, so many formulations have been developed, but unfortunately every formulation comes with certain demerits. [35] Moreover, almost all of the early agents were directed toward UVB not UVA [Table 2]. Thereafter, broad-spectrum MAAs were developed and there are so many techniques to assess the efficacy of these agents against sunburn, based on the determination of the sun protection factor (SPF), which is defined as the ratio of the time of UV exposure necessary to produce minimally detectable erythema in sunscreen-protected skin to that of the time taken to produce the same effect for unprotected skin. [20],[35] Evaluation of the efficiency of sun care products has, for a long time, been assessed through the in vivo SPF test, which is performed on human volunteers. A high SPF normally leads to a greater uncertainty in the final in vivo result. For economical, practical and ethical reasons, a reliable in vitro measurement of the SPF seems particularly useful as a supplement to but not a replacement for the in vivo SPF. Moreover, SPF might be insufficient as an indicator of protection from UV-induced carcinogenesis. Currently, various modules have been used in the evaluation of these compounds such as the following: Evaluation of protection against UVA, Phototoxic protection factor, UVA erythema protection factor, Pigment-darkening protection factor and Immediate pigment darkening, In vitro transmission protection [36] factor, and substantively, [52] the most common method for detection and quantification of these compounds is high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) based on their retention times and their absorption maxima or obtaining entire UV scans via diode-array detector (DAD). The electrospray ionization mass spectrometry coupled with liquid chromatography (LC-MS) has also been used to analyze the MAAs in several organisms. [53]

Worldwide market for sun screening agents and their economical effect

MAAs have been commercially explored as sun care products for the protection of skin and other non-biological materials. Diverse role and increased utilization of these amino acid constituted products are increasing their market demands day by day. An expanding market of these products is a fact and is facing a new challenge of growing algae to produce algal isolates constituting mycosporines on a large scale in aquaculture based industry. Total aquaculture production in 2000 was reported to be 45.71 mmt by weight, valued at US$ 56.47 billion, with the production going up by 6.3% by weight and 4.8% by value since 1999. Mycosporine based sunscreen use has significantly expanded in the last decades as a consequence of the perception that UVB ray is the main cause for the development of skin cancer and the photoaging process. On the other hand, recent reports have shown that in the last 20 years, the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) has increased significantly. It has been suggested that the incidence of NMSC can be drastically reduced by using certain algal derived sun ray blockers. [20] Due to the increasing cosmetic market, this area is highly promising and the use of mycosporine-like amino acids as a highly efficient natural UV blocker in the sunscreen formulations is commercially attractive. To survive in a competitive environment, certain marine organisms have developed defense strategies that result in a significant level of structural chemical diversity, from different metabolic pathways. The exploration of these organisms for pharmaceutical purposes has revealed important chemical prototypes for the discovery of new agents, stimulating the use of sophisticated physical techniques and new syntheses of compounds with biomedical application. Therefore, an increasing supply for algal extracts, fractions or pure compounds for the economical sector is needed.

   Conclusion Top

Mycosporine is a common name used to describe a collective group of water soluble nitrogenous metabolites associated with light-stimulated sporulation in terrestrial fungi. [8] They have strong UV-absorption maxima at 310 nm and were chemically identified by Favre-Bonvin et al.[7] Most of the sunscreen products present in the market are primarily limited to UVB and short wavelength UVAII (315-340 nm). Only a few compounds are broad-spectrum UVA filters. However, some of these compounds are problematic in terms of photostability and cross stability with other sunscreen agents. [9] In view of the fact that the UVA band constitutes about 5% of the solar spectrum at the Earth's surface, whereas UVB only makes up to 0.5%, there is an urgent need of novel broad-spectrum and photo stable compound. Algal derived sunscreening compounds hold great promise for discovery and development of new pharmaceuticals. Algal biochemicals are gifts from nature as they are renewed each year through the energy from the sun. MAAs are typical representatives of these botanical gifts universally present in marine organisms. In addition to their biological functions in marine environment and, in some cases, to their esthetic value, these stable compounds give a new range of protection (broad spectrum) in sunscreen formulations against UV rays. Hence, they can be used in the development of artificial human sunscreens. However, discovery of these compounds is still incomplete, every month new structures are coming out and the dissection of their metabolic pathways is far from being complete. Taken together, it seems that these compounds provide sufficient therapeutic role in photoprotection, not only for algae but also for humans (via formulation).

   Acknowledgment Top

I wish to express my gratitude to A. P. Purohit for his valuable discussions, suggestions and assistance in reviewing the manuscript.

   References Top

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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