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β-carotene protects from solar radiation: Dunaliella salina algae


micro-algae containing high amounts of beta-carotene (Arial View) / Doc Searls / LicensePD - Public Domain

Dunaliella salina algae protect themselves from the effects of solar ultraviolet radiation by producing immense quantities of β-carotene to quench the damaging effects of reactive oxygen radicals.

Dunaliella salina algae is bombarded with the full brunt of solar UV (ultraviolet) radiation and has evolved a novel mechanism for defending itself from the radiation's damaging effects. More than 8% of its dry body mass is β-carotene, more than any other organism that produces the compound. The algae produces β-carotene in response to UV stress and localizes it to lipid droplets within its chloroplasts. In that location it is able to absorb and neutralize the damaging oxygen radicals produced from excessive UV and sun exposure.
"Dunaliella salina Teodoresco is a green alga capable of producing high concentrations of carotenoids, i.e. more than 8% of dry weight, when stressed. These carotenoids [mostly β-carotene] are stored in lipid globules." (Kleinegris et al. 2010:645)

"When Dunaliella salina cells are stressed, they start to produce carotenoids. The green cell which is dominated by the chloroplast starts to turn orange. The chloroplast shrinks, chloroplast membranes decrease in size and carotenoid- containing lipid globules are formed." (Kleinegris et al. 2010:646)

"Dunaliella salina stores secondary carotenoids (predominantly β-carotene) in lipid globules in the chloroplast when cultivated under stress conditions. Non-stressed cells are dominated by the chloroplast, emitting red fluorescence originating from the chlorophyll in the thylakoid membranes. When the cells are stressed, the red fluorescence from chlorophyll partly disappears as the thylakoid membranes are broken down. At the same time, the cells start to produce carotenoid globules and green fluorescence appears simultaneously. Dunaliella salina cells show this distinct difference in red and green fluorescence pattern between non-stressed and stressed cells." (Kleinegris et al. 2010:648)
About the inspiring organism
Med_fleurdesel Dunaliella salina
Dunaliella salina (Dunal) Teodoresco

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: AlgaeBase
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_NE IUCN Red List Status: Not Evaluated

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: β-carotene absorbs singlet oxygen, a toxic oxygen radical produced by radiation and photosynthesis/metabolism. New products/processes inspired by D. salina's use of β-carotene could be valuable techniques for producing new sunscreens and anti-radiation treatments.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Consumer products, medicine

Kleinegris DMM; van Es MA; Janssen M; Brandenburg WA; Wijffels RH. 2010. Carotenoid fluorescence in Dunaliella salina. Journal of Applied Phycology. 22: 645-649.
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