Coral fluorescent proteins as antioxidants

PLoS One. 2009 Oct 6;4(10):e7298. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007298.


Background: A wide array of fluorescent proteins (FP) is present in anthozoans, although their biochemical characteristics and function in host tissue remain to be determined. Upregulation of FP's frequently occurs in injured or compromised coral tissue, suggesting a potential role of coral FPs in host stress responses.

Methodology/principal findings: The presence of FPs was determined and quantified for a subsample of seven healthy Caribbean coral species using spectral emission analysis of tissue extracts. FP concentration was correlated with the in vivo antioxidant potential of the tissue extracts by quantifying the hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) scavenging rates. FPs of the seven species varied in both type and abundance and demonstrated a positive correlation between H(2)O(2) scavenging rate and FP concentration. To validate this data, the H(2)O(2) scavenging rates of four pure scleractinian FPs, cyan (CFP), green (GFP), red (RFP) and chromoprotein (CP), and their mutant counterparts (without chromophores), were investigated. In vitro, each FP scavenged H(2)O(2) with the most efficient being CP followed by equivalent activity of CFP and RFP. Scavenging was significantly higher in all mutant counterparts.

Conclusions/significance: Both naturally occurring and pure coral FPs have significant H(2)O(2) scavenging activity. The higher scavenging rate of RFP and the CP in vitro is consistent with observed increases of these specific FPs in areas of compromised coral tissue. However, the greater scavenging ability of the mutant counterparts suggests additional roles of scleractinian FPs, potentially pertaining to their color. This study documents H(2)O(2) scavenging of scleractinian FPs, a novel biochemical characteristic, both in vivo across multiple species and in vitro with purified proteins. These data support a role for FPs in coral stress and immune responses and highlights the multi-functionality of these conspicuous proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / metabolism*
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Biochemistry / methods
  • Fishes
  • Free Radical Scavengers / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Marine Biology
  • Mutagenesis
  • Mutation
  • Pigmentation


  • Antioxidants
  • Cyan Fluorescent Protein
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • red fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Hydrogen Peroxide