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Mar. Drugs 2011, 9(9), 1625-1648; doi:10.3390/md9091625

The Relevance of Marine Chemical Ecology to Plankton and Ecosystem Function: An Emerging Field

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1 Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Villa Comunale Napoli 80121, Italy 2 School of Marine Science and Technology, Newcastle University, Ridley Building, Claremont Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, England NE1 7RU, UK 3 Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar Research, Am Handelshafen 12, Bremerhaven 27570, Germany 4 ARONIA Research and Development Institute, Novia University of Applied Sciences & Åbo Akademi University, Raseborgsvägen 9, Ekenäs FI-10600, Finland 5 Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, The Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK 6 International Max Planck Research School of Marine Microbiology, Celsiusstrasse 1, Bremen 28359, Germany 7 School of Natural Sciences, Linnaeus University, Kalmar 352 52, Sweden 8 Coastal Research and Planning Institute, Klaipeda University, Manto 84, Klaipeda LT-5802, Lithuania 9 Institute for Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Jena D-07743, Germany
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 27 July 2011 / Revised: 5 September 2011 / Accepted: 9 September 2011 / Published: 22 September 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Algal Toxins)
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Marine chemical ecology comprises the study of the production and interaction of bioactive molecules affecting organism behavior and function. Here we focus on bioactive compounds and interactions associated with phytoplankton, particularly bloom-forming diatoms, prymnesiophytes and dinoflagellates. Planktonic bioactive metabolites are structurally and functionally diverse and some may have multiple simultaneous functions including roles in chemical defense (antipredator, allelopathic and antibacterial compounds), and/or cell-to-cell signaling (e.g., polyunsaturated aldehydes (PUAs) of diatoms). Among inducible chemical defenses in response to grazing, there is high species-specific variability in the effects on grazers, ranging from severe physical incapacitation and/or death to no apparent physiological response, depending on predator susceptibility and detoxification capability. Most bioactive compounds are present in very low concentrations, in both the producing organism and the surrounding aqueous medium. Furthermore, bioactivity may be subject to synergistic interactions with other natural and anthropogenic environmental toxicants. Most, if not all phycotoxins are classic secondary metabolites, but many other bioactive metabolites are simple molecules derived from primary metabolism (e.g., PUAs in diatoms, dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) in prymnesiophytes). Producing cells do not seem to suffer physiological impact due to their synthesis. Functional genome sequence data and gene expression analysis will provide insights into regulatory and metabolic pathways in producer organisms, as well as identification of mechanisms of action in target organisms. Understanding chemical ecological responses to environmental triggers and chemically-mediated species interactions will help define crucial chemical and molecular processes that help maintain biodiversity and ecosystem functionality.
Keywords: allelopathy; biotoxins; signal molecule; teratogen; toxic algae allelopathy; biotoxins; signal molecule; teratogen; toxic algae
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Ianora, A.; Bentley, M.G.; Caldwell, G.S.; Casotti, R.; Cembella, A.D.; Engström-Öst, J.; Halsband, C.; Sonnenschein, E.; Legrand, C.; Llewellyn, C.A.; Paldavičienë, A.; Pilkaityte, R.; Pohnert, G.; Razinkovas, A.; Romano, G.; Tillmann, U.; Vaiciute, D. The Relevance of Marine Chemical Ecology to Plankton and Ecosystem Function: An Emerging Field. Mar. Drugs 2011, 9, 1625-1648.

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