Surface-associated fucoxanthin mediates settlement of bacterial epiphytes on the rockweed Fucus vesiculosus
The chemical defence against microfouling in the brown seaweed Fucus vesiculosus was investigated and an inhibitor of bacterial settlement was isolated by bioassay-guided fractionation of non-polar surface extracts. UV-vis and mass spectrometry were used to identify the compound as the carotenoid fucoxanthin. The metabolite was tested at the natural concentration (in a surface volume based assay) against the settlement of four bacterial strains isolated from F. vesiculosus and 11 strains isolated from co-occurring algae and marine sediment. Surface concentrations between 1.4 and 6 μg cm−2 resulted in 50% inhibition of four of these isolates, which were studied in more detail using a surface area-based assay, while a fifth isolate proved to be less sensitive. The presence of fucoxanthin on the surface of F. vesiculosus was demonstrated with two different surface extraction methods. Fucoxanthin was detected at concentrations between 0.7 and 9 μg cm−2 on the algal surface. Fucoxanthin was still present at the algal surface after removal of associated diatoms through mechanical cleaning and germanium dioxide treatment and was thus mainly produced by F. vesiculosus rather than by diatoms. Thus, the photosynthetic pigment fucoxanthin appears to be ecologically relevant as a surface-associated antimicrobial agent, acting against the settlement of bacteria on the surface of the macroalga F. vesiculosus.