Chemical biology news from across RSC Publishing.
Mapping the therapeutic secrets of the sea
06 March 2008
Marine organisms produce a wealth of natural products but in the complex environment of a marine sponge it can be difficult to tell which creature should be given the credit. Now US scientists are trying to solve the mystery by visualising the molecules within intact organisms.
The technique used by the team - natural product matrix-assisted laser desorption ionisation imaging (npMALDI-I) - also allows the scientists to pinpoint where exactly these natural products are in the organism. And, since up to 40 per cent of a sponge's mass is thought to be attributed to co-existing organisms, the method could help the scientists to discover which of the organisms are responsible for making the potentially bioactive compounds.
npMALDI-I can be used to locate natural products (such as yanucamide B shown) in cyanobacteria
The team found that, within a cross-section of a sponge, some of the natural products were localised on the outer edges, while others had a more uniform distribution and others were concentrated in the middle. Given that co-existing micro-organisms tend to populate specific regions of the sponge tissue, explained Dorrestein, the results suggest that the micro-organisms are responsible for at least some of the compounds.
Link to journal article
Visualizing the spatial distribution of secondary metabolites produced by marine cyanobacteria and sponges via MALDI-TOF imaging
Eduardo Esquenazi, Cameron Coates, Luke Simmons, David Gonzalez, William H. Gerwick and Pieter C. Dorrestein, Mol. BioSyst., 2008, 4, 562
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