Background: Cyanobacteria are the predominant atmospheric nitrogen fixers of the
aquatic as well as terrestrial ecosystems. Harvesting of solar energy for photosynthesis exposes cyanobacteria
simultaneously to lethal doses of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) in their natural brightly
light habitats. To counteract the damaging effect of UVR, cyanobacteria synthesize novel secondary
metabolites such as mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) and scytonemin. By the application
of the “omics” techniques cyanobacterial molecular biology is benefitted tremendously. Traditionally,
only small sets of metabolites are quantified in targeted metabolome approaches. The development
of separation technologies coupled with mass-spectroscopy and nuclear-magneticresonance
based identification of low molecular mass molecules allows the profiling of several metabolites
of different chemical nature.
Objective: MAAs and scytonemin are highly photostable and act as potent photoprotectant and antioxidant
hence can be biotechnologically exploited by the cosmetic industry. Till date, 23 MAAs such
as shinorine, mycosporine glycine, palythine, palythinol, asterina-330 and porphyra-334, and 7 different
forms of scytonemin such as oxidized and reduced scytonemin, scytonemin-3a-imine and scytonemin
A have been reported in various cyanobacteria. Metabolome analysis could be applied to
characterize changes in the cyanobacterial primary and secondary metabolites such as MAAs and scytonemin
under diverse environmental conditions. Untargeted metabolite profiling has the potential to
identify numerous novel metabolites; however, de novo identification of metabolites from spectral
features remains a challenge.
Conclusion: This review deals with the structure, biosynthesis and various techniques involved in the
metabolomic profiling of cyanobacterial UV protective compounds scytonemin and MAAs.