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, 189 (3), 288-297

Isolation and Partial Characterization of the Pink and Blue Pigments of Pocilloporid and Acroporid Corals

Isolation and Partial Characterization of the Pink and Blue Pigments of Pocilloporid and Acroporid Corals

S G Dove et al. Biol Bull.


The compounds responsible for the pink and blue colors of two families of hermatypic corals (Pocilloporidae, Acroporidae) from the southern Great Barrier Reef were isolated and biochemically characterized. Isolation of the pink pigment from Pocillopora damicornis (named pocilloporin, {lambda}max = 560 nm, 390 nm) revealed that it was a hydrophilic protein dimer with a native molecular weight of approximately 54 kD and subunits of 28 kD. The subunits are not linked by disulfide bonds. Attempts to dissociate the chromophore from the protein proved unsuccessful. Denaturing the protein with heat (60{deg}C) or 5% sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) removed the 560-nm absorbance peak without introducing a detectable bathochromic shift. In acetone, ethanol, ether, and chloroform, the pigment precipitates out of solution, leaving a colorless supernatant. These properties suggest that the protein and chromophore are covalently linked. Ion analysis revealed that the pigment does not have metal ions chelated to it. Coral pigments were also isolated from pink morphs of other pocilloporids, Seriatopora hystrix ({lambda}max = 560 nm) and Stylophora pistillata ({lambda}max = 560 nm); and from bluish regions of the acroporids, Acropora formosa (blue; {lambda}max = 590 nm) and Acropora digitifera (purple; {lambda}max = 580 nm). With the exception of A. formosa, all the corals examined had pigments with the same native (54 kD) and subunit (28 kD) molecular weights as those of P. damicornis. A. formosa pigment has a native molecular weight of about 82.6 kD and three subunits of 28 kD. The pigments isolated from each of these coral species have properties similar to those described for P. damicornis. Isolation and biochemical purification of the pigment enabled the exploration of the function of the pink pigment. Three possibilities were eliminated. The compound does not act as (i) a photoprotectant for shielding the photosynthetic pigments of symbiotic zooxanthellae against excessive irradiances, (ii) a fluorescent coupling agent for amplifying the levels of photosynthetically active radiation available for resident zooxanthellae, or (iii) a UV-screen against the high UV levels of shallow tropical marine environments.

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