We aim at isolating, characterizing and investigating the bioactivity, the mechanism of action and the biotechnological applications of a new, peculiar factor present in marine diatoms. The ingestion of diatoms of the genus Cocconeis induces the development of primary females in the protandric shrimp Hippolyte inermis Leach, living in Posidonia oceanica meadows. This is due to the early disruption of the male gonad through apoptosis (programmed cell death) and it takes place, both in the field and in the laboratory, during the first phases of post larvae maturation. The action is specifically induced by some diatoms and selective for the male gonad and the androgenic gland, triggering the quick death of cells naturally programmed to die about 12 months after hatching. The recent discovery of the apoptotic factor and the availability of test tools offer a unique opportunity to develop pioneering biotechnological applications. The research, carried out by an international multi-disciplinary team with experience in marine biology, chemistry, pharmacology and human pathology, will identify its chemical structure. The active compound will be extracted and isolated from cultures of diatoms. Extracts will be tested on H. inermis post larvae for their apoptotic potential. In vitro tests will be performed on decapod tissues to measure the specificity of effects and clarify the mechanism of action. The fraction containing the apoptotic factor will be analyzed and the compound will be isolated, purified, characterized, synthesized and tested in vivo and in vitro.
Finally, its antiproliferative activity will be tested on human cell lines, both normal and neoplastic (leukemia and solid tumours). In case of positive results, the biochemical and molecular pathways induced by the agent will be characterized. The production of the novel apoptotic compound has biotechnological and medical significance and potential tremendous impacts through applications in aquaculture and ecology.
Field of science
- /natural sciences/biological sciences/marine biology
- /medical and health sciences/basic medicine/pharmacology and pharmacy
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