• carotenoids;
  • Caulerpa taxifolia;
  • caulerpenyne;
  • density functional calculations;
  • Raman spectroscopy


The invasive unicellular green macroalga Caulerpa taxifolia has spread dramatically in the Mediterranean Sea over the last decades. Its success is based on rapid plug formation after wounding, to prevent the loss of cell content. This quick and efficient process involves the rapid transformation of the secondary metabolite caulerpenyne to the reactive 1,4-dialdehyde oxytoxin 2, which acts as a protein crosslinker. The main metabolites of the wound plug were identified as proteins, caulerpenyne derivatives, and sulfated polysaccharides. Because of a methodological deficit, however, the detailed distribution of the compounds within the wound plug of C. taxifolia was unknown. This study demonstrates the suitability of FT-Raman spectroscopy for the noninvasive in vivo determination of caulerpenyne and its derivatives, as well as β-carotene, from signals with special spectral features within the wound plug and the adjacent intact alga tissue, with a resolution of 100 μm. FT-Raman spectra allowed four different zones with distinct chemical compositions around the region of wounds to be characterized. Gradients of the investigated metabolites within the wound plug and the alga could be determined. Moreover, various caulerpenyne derivatives could be identified spectroscopically, and this has led to a mechanistic proposal for the internal and the external wound plug formation.