In Germany, a team from the Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology of the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) and the Technical University of Kaiserslautern was able to show how the synthesis of the pink dye phycoerythrobilin works in detail. An enzyme is the key to the color of certain algae. And thus also to their ability to photosynthesis.
From one and the same precursor molecule, algae can produce different colored pigments – as needed in their environment. The researchers found that a key enzyme allows the binding of a substrate only in an unexpected orientation and thus provides the appropriate color.
The color play of algae is caused by natural pigment molecules that are specifically produced by the organisms depending on the environment. Only with their help, the algae can operate photosynthesis. Above all, cyanobacteria (formerly called blue-green algae), red algae and so-called cryptophytes use biline. Unlike the well-known green leaf pigment chlorophyll, bilines are pigment molecules with a great variety of colors. Biliverdin is formed by enzymatic cleavage of the ring structure of heme and serves as a precursor for all other bilins.