Description of project

Extremophilic organisms are able to survive under hostile environmental conditions like high temperature or elevated UV radiation. This is possible because they develop mechanisms of protection, in most cases by the synthesis of specific metabolites. If respective compounds are able to protect the organisms from harmful conditions, they also might be of relevance for humans. Obvious would be a use in (cosmetic) products, to avoid UV related skin damages. Additionally, respective compounds are also of immense ecological interest. By knowing their structure and quantity, the different defense strategies can be studied and compared.

Despite this generally interesting and relevant topic, the majority of algae and cyanobacteria, regardless if the species are of marine or alpine origin, haven’t been investigated. Little is known about the structure and bioactivity of metabolites that are produced in response to UV stress. In a preceding research project we have already studied some high-altitude algae, and developed protocols for the isolation and analysis of photoprotective compounds. In the current project we will focus primarily on previously not investigated marine species (Antarctic macroalgae, mangrove red algae, etc.) and soil crust algae. All of them are extremophiles and therefore potential sources of new bioactive natural products. It is our aim to select the most interesting species, to isolate, identify and analyze compounds that are induced by UV irradiation, and to study their bioactivity. Accordingly, our efforts combine aspects of biology, pharmacy, chemistry and medicine in a unique way, in order to explore the relevance of so far unstudied extremophiles.