- Top of page
- Heterotrichs, stentorids and occurrence of pigments
- Photoresponses in heterotrichs
- Characteristics of hypericin-like chromophores and primary photoprocesses
- Toxicity, UV-protection and other possible roles for hypericin-like pigments in heterotrichs
- Conclusions and hypotheses
In this paper, we review the literature and present some new data to examine the occurrence and photophysics of the diverse hypericin-like chromophores in heterotrichs, the photoresponses of the cells, the various roles of the pigments and the taxa that might be studied to advance our understanding of these pigments. Hypericin-like chromophores are known chemically and spectrally so far only from the stentorids and Fabrea, the latter now seen to be sister to stentorids in the phylogenetic tree. For three hypericin-like pigments, the structures are known but these probably do not account for all the colors seen in stentorids. At least eight physiological groups of Stentor exist depending on pigment color and presence/absence of zoochlorellae, and some species can be bleached, leading to many opportunities for comparison of pigment chemistry and cell behavior. Several different responses to light are exhibited among heterotrichs, sometimes by the same cell; in particular, cells with algal symbionts are photophilic in contrast to the well-studied sciaphilous (shade-loving) species. Hypericin-like pigments are involved in some well-known photophobic reactions but other pigments (rhodopsin and flavins) are also involved in photoresponses in heterotrichs and other protists. The best characterized role of hypericin-like pigments in heterotrichs is in photoresponses and they have at least twice evolved a role as photoreceptors. However, hypericin and hypericin-like pigments in diverse organisms more commonly serve as predator defense and the pigments are multifunctional in heterotrichs. A direct role for the pigments in UV protection is possible but evidence is equivocal. New observations are presented on a folliculinid from deep water, including physical characterization of its hypericin-like pigment and its phylogenetic position based on SSU rRNA sequences. The photophysics of hypericin and hypericin-like pigments is reviewed. Particular attention is given to how their excited-state properties are modified by the environment. Dramatic changes in excited-state behavior are observed as hypericin is moved from the homogeneous environment of organic solvents to the much more structured surroundings provided by the complexes it forms with proteins. Among these complexes, it is useful to consider the differences between environments where hypericin is not found naturally and those where it is, notably, for example, in heterotrichs. It is clear that interaction with a protein modifies the photophysics of hypericin and understanding the molecular basis of this interaction is one of the outstanding problems in elucidating the function of hypericin and hypericin-like chromophores.