Microbial pigments (carotene) new source of natural antioxidants

There is an increased evidence for the participation of free radicals in the etiology of various diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, aging1 etc. A free radical is defined as any atom or molecule possessing unpaired electrons. The primary oxygen derived free radicals are superoxide anion (O2·), hydroxyl (OH·), hydroperoxyl (OOH·), peroxyl (ROO·) and alkoxyl (RO·) radicals and non free radicals are hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), hypochlorous acid (HOCl), ozone (O3) and singlet oxygen (1/2O2). These reactive intermediates are collectively termed as reactive oxygen species (ROS). Similarly, reactive nitrogen species (RNS) are mainly nitric oxide (NO·), peroxynitrite (ONOO·) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Free radicals can cause a wide range of toxic oxidative reactions like initiation of the peroxidation of the membrane lipids leading to the accumulation of lipid peroxides, direct inhibition of mitochondrial respiratory chain enzymes, fragmentation or random cross linking of molecules like DNA, enzymes and proteins which ultimately leads to cell death12. ROS can be formed in living organisms by both endogenous and exogenous sources. Endogenous sources of free radicals include normal aerobic respiration, peroxisomes and stimulation of polymorphonuclear leucocytes and macrophages. The exogenous sources include ionizing radiation, tobacco smoke, pollutants, pesticides and organic solvents18. Antioxidants are agents which scavenge the free radicals and prevent the damage caused by them. They can greatly reduce the damage due to oxidants by neutralizing the free radicals before they can attack the cells and prevent damage to lipids, proteins, enzymes, carbohydrates and DNA5. Antioxidants can be classified into two major classes i.e., enzymatic and non-enzymatic. The enzymatic antioxidants are produced endogenously and include superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. The non-enzymatic antioxidants include tocopherols, carotenoids, ascorbic acid, flavonoids and tannins which are obtained from natural plant. A wide range of antioxidants from both natural and synthetic origin has been proposed for use in the treatment of various human diseases3. There are some synthetic antioxidant compounds such as butylated hydroxytoluene, butylated hydroxyanisole and tertiary butylhydroquinone which are commonly used in processed foods. However, it has been suggested that these compounds have shown toxic effects like liver damage and mutagenesis8. Flavonoids and other phenolic compounds of plant origin have been reported as scavengers of free radicals7. Hence, nowadays search for natural antioxidant source is gaining much importance.

A considerable number of bacteria produce non photosynthetic coloured compounds known as Pigments. This is especially true of the strictly aerobic species. Many colour are produced covering the entire range of the chromatic spectrum40. Subsequent studies of the S. aureus pigment have unraveled an elaborate biosynthetic pathway that produces a series of carotenoids41. Similar carotenoids produced in dietary fruits and vegetables are well recognized as potent antioxidants by virtue of their free-radical scavenging properties and exceptional ability to quench singlet oxygen42. We hypothesized. That S. aureus could utilize its golden carotenoid pigment to resist oxidant-based clearance mechanisms of the host innate immune system.

An increasing number of investigations have been carried out to find antioxidative drugs, which not only prolong the shelf life of food products but also participate as radical scavengers in living organism’s .As with other synthetic food additives, commercial antioxidants have been criticized, mainly due to possible toxic effects. Therefore, there is an increasing interest in the antioxidative activity of natural compounds. They can be an alternative to the use of synthetic compounds in food and pharmaceutical technology or serve as lead compounds for the development of new drugs with the prospect of improving the treatment of various disorders.

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