AME 26:283-294 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/ame026283

Distribution of mycosporine-like amino acids and photoprotective carotenoids among freshwater phytoplankton assemblages

Isabelle Laurion1,*, Andrea Lami2, Ruben Sommaruga1,**

1Institute of Zoology and Limnology, University of Innsbruck, Technikerstr. 25, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
2National Research Council, Institute of Hydrobiology, Verbania-Pallanza, Italy
*Present address: Institut des Sciences de la Mer, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 310 Allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, Québec G5L 3A1, Canada **Corresponding author. E-mail:

Abstract: Phytoplankton have evolved different strategies to minimize the potential damage caused by solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR), including the synthesis of UV-absorbing compounds that act as sunscreens and carotenoids that provide protection against photooxidative stress. The concentration and qualitative composition of mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) and photoprotective carotenoids (PPCs) were investigated in natural phytoplankton assemblages of 26 lakes located below and above the treeline in the Alps and the Pyrenees. Among these lakes, exposure to UV varied because of differences in the incident spectral dose, water column transparency, stratification, and maximum depth. Seven MAAs were identified, but the most abundant were shinorine (λmax = 334 nm) and palythine (λmax = 320 nm). The highest concentrations of MAAs (up to 9.6 μg [μg chl a]-1) and PPCs (up to 0.6 μg [μg chl a]-1) were found in the clearest and shallowest lakes, while phytoplankton from lakes with low UV transparency generally presented low values. However, phytoplankton of some clear lakes located at high altitude did not have high concentrations of these compounds. Consequently, underwater downwelling UVR, UV water transparency, or lake altitude explained only a low percentage (<26%) of the variability among lakes in MAA and PPC concentration. Within the water column, the concentration of MAAs decreased in most cases with depth, suggesting their photoprotective role. Our results indicate that MAAs and PPCs are widespread among lake phytoplankton assemblages and suggest that other environmental factors besides UV exposure are important in regulating their synthesis.


KEY WORDS: MAA · Sunscreens · Ultraviolet radiation · UV · Solar radiation · Photooxidative stress · Alpine lakes


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