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Keywords:

  • Signal substances;
  • Brown algae;
  • Algae;
  • Pheromones

Abstract

Attraction and repulsion are responses to chemical stimuli which can be received and processed even by unicellular organisms without a morphologically defined nervous system. Chemical substances trigger off a chain of events which starts with a membrane-bound signal receptor and, after a sequence of regulatory and modulatory steps, ends in the modulation of a motor effector organ. Binding of the signal substances to the receptor produces conformational changes in which the receptor subunits are mutually dependent on one another, and also leads to chemical modification of the subunits and affects their molecular activity. These interactions, together with the characteristic type of movement, result in a physiological pattern of behavior which enables the flagellated sex cells (gametes) of marine brown algae to finally locate their partners. The simple but highly specific brown algae gamete systems have been investigated structurally and their biological activity analyzed. The signal substances are mainly highly unsaturated aliphatic or cyclic hydrocarbons with unsaturated side chains (general formula e. g. C11H14, C11H16, C11H18). These systems also serve as a simplifying model which helps in the understanding of complex ganglionic pathways in higher living organisms where the sense organs convey information from the surroundings to the central nervous system through nerve pathways. The information is then processed and answered, via efferent pathways, as movement.