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Sun 02 May 2004

Sea hare protein, Escapin, provides a biofouling alternative

Category : envt

Photo of Aplysia parvula from California, Bruce Wight, The Sea Slug Forum.

I do not which species the "common Aplysia" referred to in this article actually is, so I chose a photo of A. parvula which has a worldwide distribution in warm and mildly warm waters.

There are sea hares in Singapore too - see photos from Labrador and Chek Jawa.

Science Daily: 'When encountering predators, the sea hare or sea slug Aplysia sp. discharges a purple ink containing Escapin. Among its properties, the protein causes foreign cells to lyse or explode and prevents bacteria from growing on sea hares.

A Center for Behavioral Neuroscience research team led by Georgia State University biologist Charles Derby and his team have sequenced, cloned and expressed the anti-microbial protein Escapin.

It is hoped this leads to the manufacture of anti-bacterial industrial compounds. Developed from a natural or synthetic form of the protein for the marine industry, it would be an environmentally friendly alternative to current anti-fouling products.

Biofilm formation is the precursor to the growth of barnacles and other damaging organisms on marine materials such as ship hulls, fishing traps and nets. These are must be removed through costly and time-consuming processes. Usually toxic heavy metals such as copper, are applied on materials to prevent biofilm formation in the first place.'

These heavy metal and other toxins eventually are released into the sea and accumulate with untold effect. With copper for example, lab experiments suggest that 'low levels (below recorded levels around inshore reefs off Queensland) reduced the number of coral larvae surviving to the juvenile polyp stage by at least one third'. See Copper decimates coral reef spawning.

Read the complete article at Science Daily. To read about biofilms and biofouling, see Biofouling-It's Not Just Barnacles Anymore, by Marianne Stanczak, March 2004. Cambridge Scientific Abstracts.

Posted at 2:31AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news