Physico-chemical evaluation of rationally designed melanins as novel nature-inspired radioprotectors.
ABSTRACT: Melanin, a high-molecular weight pigment that is ubiquitous in nature, protects melanized microorganisms against high doses of ionizing radiation. However, the physics of melanin interaction with ionizing radiation is unknown.We rationally designed melanins from either 5-S-cysteinyl-DOPA, L-cysteine/L-DOPA, or L-DOPA with diverse structures as shown by elemental analysis and HPLC. Sulfur-containing melanins had higher predicted attenuation coefficients than non-sulfur-containing melanins. All synthetic melanins displayed strong electron paramagnetic resonance (2.14.10(18), 7.09.10(18), and 9.05.10(17) spins/g, respectively), with sulfur-containing melanins demonstrating more complex spectra and higher numbers of stable free radicals. There was no change in the quality or quantity of the stable free radicals after high-dose (30,000 cGy), high-energy ((137)Cs, 661.6 keV) irradiation, indicating a high degree of radical stability as well as a robust resistance to the ionizing effects of gamma irradiation. The rationally designed melanins protected mammalian cells against ionizing radiation of different energies.We propose that due to melanin's numerous aromatic oligomers containing multiple pi-electron system, a generated Compton recoil electron gradually loses energy while passing through the pigment, until its energy is sufficiently low that it can be trapped by stable free radicals present in the pigment. Controlled dissipation of high-energy recoil electrons by melanin prevents secondary ionizations and the generation of damaging free radical species.
Project description:Melanins are a class of natural pigments associated with a wide range of biological functions, including microbial virulence, energy transduction, and protection against solar radiation. Because of their insolubility and structural heterogeneity, solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy provides an unprecedented means to define the molecular architecture of these enigmatic pigments. The requirement of obligatory catecholamines for melanization of the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans also offers unique opportunities for investigating melanin development. In the current study, pigments produced with L-dopa, methyl-L-dopa, epinephrine, and norepinephrine precursors are compared structurally using (13)C and (1)H magic-angle spinning (MAS) NMR. Striking structural differences were observed for both aromatic and aliphatic molecular constituents of the mature fungal pigment assemblies, thus making it possible to redefine the molecular prerequisites for formation of the aromatic domains of insoluble indole-based biopolymers, to rationalize their distinctive physical characteristics, and to delineate the role of cellular constituents in assembly of the melanized macromolecules with polysaccharides and fatty acyl chain-containing moieties. By achieving an augmented understanding of the mechanisms of C. neoformans melanin biosynthesis and cellular assembly, such studies can guide future drug discovery efforts related to melanin-associated virulence, resistance to tumor therapy, and production of melanin mimetics under cell-free conditions.
Project description:Talaromyces marneffei (Basionym: Penicillium marneffei) is a significant opportunistic fungal pathogen in patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus in Southeast Asia. T. marneffei cells have been shown to become melanized in vivo. Melanins are pigment biopolymers which act as a non-specific protectant against various stressors and which play an important role during virulence in fungi. The synthesis of the two most commonly found melanins in fungi, the eumelanin DOPA-melanin and the allomelanin DHN-melanin, requires the action of laccase enzymes. The T. marneffei genome encodes a number of laccases and this study describes the characterization of one of these, pbrB, during growth and development. A strain carrying a PbrB-GFP fusion shows that pbrB is expressed at high levels during asexual development (conidiation) but not in cells growing vegetatively. The pbrB gene is required for the synthesis of DHN-melanin in conidia and when deleted results in brown pigmented conidia, in contrast to the green conidia of the wild type.
Project description:Melanogenesis is a complex multistep process of high molecular weight melanins production by hydroxylation and polymerization of polyphenols. Melanins have a wide range of applications other than being a sun - protection pigment. Melanogenesis pathway exists from prokaryotes to eukaryotes. It has evolved over years owing to the fact that the melanin pigment has different roles in diverse taxa of organisms. Melanin plays a pivotal role in the existence of certain bacteria and fungi whereas in higher organisms it is a measure of protection against the harmful radiation. We have done a detailed study on various pathways known for melanin synthesis across species. It was divulged that melanin production is not restricted to tyrosine but there are other secondary metabolites that synthesize melanin in lower organisms. Furthermore the phylogenetic study of these paths was done to understand their molecular and cellular development. It has revealed that the melanin synthesis paths have co-evolved in several groups of organisms. In this study, we also introduce a method for the comparative analysis of a metabolic pathway to study its evolution based on similarity between enzymatic reactions.
Project description:Melanins are synthesized by organisms of all biological kingdoms and comprise a heterogeneous class of natural pigments. Certain of these polymers have been implicated in the pathogenesis of several important human fungal pathogens. This study investigated whether the fungal skin pathogen Malassezia furfur produces melanin or melanin-like compounds. A melanin-binding monoclonal antibody (MAb) labelled in vitro cultivated yeast cells of M. furfur. In addition, melanization of Malassezia yeasts and hyphae was detected by anti-melanin MAb in scrapings from patients with pityriasis versicolor. Treatment of Malassezia yeasts with proteolytic enzymes, denaturant and concentrated hot acid yielded dark particles and electron spin resonance spectroscopy revealed that these particles contained a stable free radical compound, consistent with their identification as melanins. Malassezia yeasts required phenolic compounds, such as L-DOPA, in order to synthesize melanin. L-DOPA also triggered hyphal formation in vitro when combined with kojic acid, a tyrosinase inhibitor, in a dose-dependent manner. In this respect, L-DOPA is thought to be an essential substance that is linked to both melanization and yeast-mycelial transformation in M. furfur. In summary, M. furfur can produce melanin or melanin-like compounds in vitro and in vivo, and the DOPA melanin pathway is involved in cell wall melanization.
Project description:Melanins are chemically diverse ubiquitous pigments found across the life forms synthesized via different biochemical pathways mainly from L-tyrosine or acetyl CoA. Though few reports suggest the possibility of tryptophan-based melanin synthesis, however, such tryptophan-based melanin and its biosynthesis remained a biochemical riddle. Here we report tryptophan-based melanin production by bacterium, Rubrivivax benzoatilyticus JA2. Aerobic cultures of strain JA2 produced brown pigment when grown on L-tryptophan-containing media. Purified pigment showed typical physico-chemical properties of melanin. Further, extensive spectroscopic studies revealed that pigment is an amorphous, indole-type polymer with stable free radical centers. Further, hydrolysis of the brown pigment revealed the presence of indole moiety, confirming the indolic nature of the pigment. Demonstration of in vitro and in vivo pigment synthesis directly from L-tryptophan or hydroxytryptophan confirms tryptophan-based melanin synthesis in strain JA2. Interestingly, canonical melanin biosynthetic inhibitors did not affect the pigment synthesis indicating possible non-canonical tryptophan-based melanin biosynthesis in strain JA2. Further, the exometabolite profiling and precursor feeding studies suggests that L-tryptophan converted to hydroxytryptophan/hydroxyindoles and their subsequent polymerization lead to the formation of melanin. The current study sheds light on biosynthetic diversity of melanins and L-tryptophan can be a potential precursor for melanin synthesis in life forms.
Project description:Melanized fungi have been shown to thrive in environments with high radionuclide concentrations, which led to the association of the pigment melanin with the protection against ionizing radiation. Several hypotheses regarding the function of melanin have been proposed. Yet, the exact mechanism behind the protective property of melanin is unclear and poorly explored. A better understanding of the mechanisms that are involved in increasing the tolerance of the organisms to ionizing radiation could lead to technology transfer to human-related applications. Effective protection from radiation is essential for human space flight in general and human missions beyond Low Earth Orbit specifically. In this paper, we follow a biomimetic approach: we test two of current hypotheses and discuss how they could be applied to radiation shield designs. First we focus on the interaction of melanin with high energy electrons, which has been suspected to reduce the kinetic energy of the electrons through a cascade of collisions, thus providing physical shielding. Second, we investigate if the spatial arrangement of melanin, organized as a thin film or a collection of hollow micro-spheres, affects its shielding properties. To this end, we measured experimentally and by numerical simulations the attenuation of ?-radiation as pass through solutions and suspensions of melanin and contrasted the values to the ones of cellulose, a substance with similar elemental composition. Further, we investigate the spatial arrangement hypothesis using Monte Carlo simulations. In agreement with the simulations, our experiments indicated that melanin does not provide improved shielding in comparison to cellulose from ?-radiation. However, our simulations suggest a substantial effect of the spatial arrangement on the shielding performance of melanin, a pathway that could be transferred to the design of composite radiation shields.
Project description:Dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) melanins formed from tyrosine by tyrosinases are found in microorganisms, plants, and animals. Most species in the soil-dwelling, gram-positive bacterial genus Streptomyces produce DOPA melanins and melanogenesis is one of the characteristics used for taxonomy. Here we report a novel melanin biosynthetic pathway involving a type III polyketide synthase (PKS), RppA, and a cytochrome P-450 enzyme, P-450mel, in Streptomyces griseus. In vitro reconstitution of the P-450mel catalyst with spinach ferredoxin-NADP(+) reductase/ferredoxin revealed that it catalyzed oxidative biaryl coupling of 1,3,6,8-tetrahydroxynaphthalene (THN), which was formed from five molecules of malonyl-coenzyme A by the action of RppA to yield 1,4,6,7,9,12-hexahydroxyperylene-3,10-quinone (HPQ). HPQ readily autopolymerized to generate HPQ melanin. Disruption of either the chromosomal rppA or P-450mel gene resulted in abolishment of the HPQ melanin synthesis in S. griseus and a decrease in the resistance of spores to UV-light irradiation. These findings show that THN-derived melanins are not exclusive in eukaryotic fungal genera but an analogous pathway is conserved in prokaryotic streptomycete species as well. A vivid contrast in THN melanin biosynthesis between streptomycetes and fungi is that the THN synthesized by the action of a type III PKS is used directly for condensation in the former, while the THN synthesized by the action of type I PKSs is first reduced and the resultant 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene is then condensed in the latter.
Project description:Cryptococcus neoformans is unusual among melanotic fungi in that it requires an exogenous supply of precursor to synthesize melanin. C. neoformans melanizes during mammalian infection in a process that presumably uses host-supplied compounds such as catecholamines. L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA) is a natural catecholamine that is frequently used to induce melanization in C. neoformans and L-DOPA-melanized cryptococci manifest resistance to radiation, phagocytosis, detergents and heavy metals. Given that C. neoformans needs exogenous substrate for melanization one question in the field is the extent to which melanin-associated phenotypes reflect the presence of melanin or metabolic changes in response to substrates. In this study we analyze the response of C. neoformans to L-DOPA with respect to melanization, gene expression and metabolic incorporation. Increasing the concentration of L-DOPA promotes melanin formation up to concentrations > 1 mM, after which toxicity is apparent as manifested by reduced growth. The timing of C. neoformans cells to melanization is affected by growth phase and cell density. Remarkably, growth of C. neoformans in the presence of L-DOPA results in the induction of relatively few genes, most of which could be related to stress metabolism. We interpret these results to suggest that the biological effects associated with melanization after growth in L-DOPA are largely due to the presence of the pigment. This in turn provides strong support for the view that melanin contributes to virulence directly through its presence in the cell wall.
Project description:Melanins, the ubiquitous hetero-polymer pigments found widely dispersed among various life forms, are usually dark brown/black in colour. Although melanins have variety of biological functions, including protection against ultraviolet radiation of sunlight and are used in medicine, cosmetics, extraction of melanin from the animal and plant kingdoms is not an easy task. Using complementary physicochemical techniques (i.e. MALDI-TOF, FTIR absorption and cross-polarization magic angle spinning solid-state (13)C NMR), we report here the characterization of melanins extracted from the nitrogen-fixing non-virulent bacterium Azotobacter chroococcum, a safe viable source. Moreover, considering dihydroxyindole moiety as the main constituent, an effort is made to propose the putative molecular structure of the melanin hetero-polymer extracted from the bacterium. Characterization of the melanin obtained from Azotobacter chroococcum would provide an inspiration in extending research activities on these hetero-polymers and their use as protective agent against UV radiation.
Project description:Natural brown-black eumelanin pigments confer structural coloration in animals and potently block ionizing radiation and antifungal drugs. These functions also make them attractive for bioinspired materials design, including coating materials for drug-delivery vehicles, strengthening agents for adhesive hydrogel materials, and free-radical scavengers for soil remediation. Nonetheless, the molecular determinants of the melanin "developmental road traveled" and the resulting architectural features have remained uncertain because of the insoluble, heterogeneous, and amorphous characteristics of these complex polymeric assemblies. Here, we used 2D solid-state NMR, EPR, and dynamic nuclear polarization spectroscopic techniques, assisted in some instances by the use of isotopically enriched precursors, to address several open questions regarding the molecular structures and associated functions of eumelanin. Our findings uncovered: 1) that the identity of the available catecholamine precursor alters the structure of melanin pigments produced either in <i>Cryptococcus neoformans</i> fungal cells or under cell-free conditions; 2) that the identity of the available precursor alters the scaffold organization and membrane lipid content of melanized fungal cells; 3) that the fungal cells are melanized preferentially by an l-DOPA precursor; and 4) that the macromolecular carbon- and nitrogen-based architecture of cell-free and fungal eumelanins includes indole, pyrrole, indolequinone, and open-chain building blocks that develop depending on reaction time. In conclusion, the availability of catecholamine precursors plays an important role in eumelanin development by affecting the efficacy of pigment formation, the melanin molecular structure, and its underlying scaffold in fungal systems.