Radiation-resistant extremophiles and their potential in biotechnology and therapeutics

Prashant Gabani, Om V. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Extremophiles are organisms able to thrive in extreme environmental conditions. Microorganisms with the ability to survive high doses of radiation are known as radioresistant or radiation-resistant extremophiles. Excessive or intense exposure to radiation (i.e., gamma rays, X-rays, and particularly UV radiation) can induce a variety of mutagenic and cytotoxic DNA lesions, which can lead to different forms of cancer. However, some populations of microorganisms thrive under different types of radiation due to defensive mechanisms provided by primary and secondary metabolic products, i.e., extremolytes and extremozymes. Extremolytes (including scytonemin, mycosporine-like amino acids, shinorine, porphyra-334, palythine, biopterin, and phlorotannin, among others) are able to absorb a wide spectrum of radiation while protecting the organism's DNA from being damaged. The possible commercial applications of extremolytes include anticancer drugs, antioxidants, cell-cycle-blocking agents, and sunscreens, among others. This article aims to review the strategies by which microorganisms thrive in extreme radiation environments and discuss their potential uses in biotechnology and the therapeutic industry. The major challenges that lie ahead are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)993-1004
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Extremolytes
  • Extremophiles
  • Extremozymes
  • Microorganisms
  • Radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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