What is Bromotryptophan, and how can bromopeptides be used to protect marine animals?

An image of sea urchins, one of the marine animals which bromotryptophan may help to protect.
© iStock/Eduardo Baena

Elsie C. Jimenez, a researcher from the University of the Philippines Baguio has studied marine bromopeptides in detail and has analysed how Bromotyptophan can be used to protect marine animals.

The review identifies how bromopeptides influence the lives of many marine animals, and also assesses the possible medical applications of different categories of peptides.

The observations about characterised peptides

The review has been published in Protein and Peptide Letters. Jimenez studied the characterised peptides and noted the following:

  • Ribosomal peptides generally contain 6- bromo-L-tryptophan; and
  • Non-ribosomal peptides have brominated tryptophan analogs and unusual peptidic structures.

What is Bromotryptophan?

Brymotryptophan is a noncoded amino acid. It is rarely found in peptides formed in the ribosome of the cell, because Bromotrytophan and its analogs do not usually occur in peptides which are not produced through the ribosomal machinery.

Improving the lives of marine animals with Bromotryptophan

Peptide molecules are susceptible to proteolytic degradation. However, according to the review, the presence of brominated tryptophan analogs may provide structural stability. This could prevent degradation due to the steric effect caused by the bromine atom.

Brominated tryptophan analogs are likely to have significant functions marine animals such as:

•Cone snails;
•Ascidians;
•Hagfish;
•Annelids;
•Sea urchins; and
•Sponges.

Jimenez said: “Several peptides reveal pharmacological activities that can be further explored for medical applications.”

“Some peptides cause excitatory activities while others bind to nervous system receptors. The rest show antimicrobial, insecticidal, hemolytic and cytotoxic activities.”

The potential medical applications of peptides

The presence of brominated tryptophan analogs means that these peptides may be the ideal fit to target cell membranes. Peptides that show antimicrobial activities may be developed as antibiotics. The peptides that bind to specific receptors may also be used for the treatment of neurological disorders, and peptides with antitumor activity could be developed as cancer drugs.

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