The complexity of porphyrin-like pigments in a marine annelid sheds new light on haem metabolism in aquatic invertebrates

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Abstract

True green pigments in the animal kingdom are scarce and are almost invariably porphyrinoids. Endogenous porphyrins resulting from the breakdown of haem are usually known as “bile pigments”. The pigmentation of intertidal Polychaeta has long gained attention due to its variety and vivid patterning that often seems incompatible with camouflage, as it occurs with Eulalia viridis, one of the few truly green Polychaeta. The present study combined UV and bright-field microscopy with HPLC to address the presence and distribution of pigments in several organs. The results showed two major types of porphyrin-like pigments, yellowish and greenish in colour, that are chiefly stored as intraplasmatic granules. Whereas the proboscis holds yellow pigments, the skin harbours both types in highly specialised cells. In their turn, oocytes and intestine have mostly green pigments. Despite some inter-individual variation, the pigments tend to be stable after prolonged storage at −20 °C, which has important implications for future studies. The results show that, in a foraging predator of the intertidal where melanins are circumscribed to lining the nervous system, porphyrinoid pigments have a key role in protection against UV light, in sensing and even as chemical defence against foulants and predators, which represents a remarkable adaptive feature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12930
JournalScientific Reports
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

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