Melanin is a unique pigment with myriad functions that is found in all biological kingdoms. It is multifunctional, providing defense against environmental stresses such as ultraviolet (UV) light, oxidizing agents and ionizing radiation. Melanin contributes to the ability of fungi to survive in harsh environments. In addition, it plays a role in fungal pathogenesis. Melanin is an amorphous polymer that is produced by one of two synthetic pathways. Fungi may synthesize melanin from endogenous substrate via a 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) intermediate. Alternatively, some fungi produce melanin from l-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (l-dopa). The detailed chemical structure of melanin is not known. However, microscopic studies show that it has an overall granular structure. In fungi, melanin granules are localized to the cell wall where they are likely cross-linked to polysaccharides. Recent studies suggest the fungal melanin may be synthesized in internal vesicles akin to mammalian melanosomes and transported to the cell wall. Potential applications of melanin take advantage of melanin's radioprotective properties and propensity to bind to a variety of substances.
- Cell wall
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology