Zebrafish make their own sunscreen

Zebrafish make their own sunscreen

Osborn, R.A., Almabruk, K.H., Holzwarth, G., Asamizu, S., LaDu, J., Kean, K.M., Karplus, P.A., Tanguay, R.L., Bakalinsky, A.T., Mahmud, T. (2015). De novo synthesis of a sunscreen compound in vertebrates. eLIFE.

A compound known as gadusol is responsible for protecting many animals, like the zebrafish, from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, a new study from Oregon State University finds.

Researchers originally believed that the zebrafish obtained gadusol from eating algae, which has long been known to naturally produce the compound. As it turns out, many fish, amphibians, birds and reptiles seem to have developed the ability to produce gadusol through “natural genetic engineering”.

“The ability to make gadusol, which was first discovered in fish eggs, clearly has some evolutionary value to be found in so many species,” remarked study lead author Taifo Mahmud. “We know it provides UV-B protection, it makes a pretty good sunscreen. But there may also be roles it plays as an antioxidant, in stress response, embryonic development and other functions.”

Mahmud and his team also discovered a way to produce high volumes of gadusol from yeast, which could potentially be applied to commercial sunscreens. Mahmud also notes that ingestion of gadusol could possibly provide a sunscreen that protects the body from the inside.

More from Oregon State University: http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2015/may/no-lotions-needed-many-animal-species-produce-their-own-sunscreen

Read full research here: http://elifesciences.org/content/elife/4/e05919.full.pdf

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