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Algae > Volume 23(3); 2008 > Article
Algae 2008;23(3): 163-175. doi: https://doi.org/10.4490/algae.2008.23.3.163
The Biology of Phenolic Containing Vesicles
Monica E.A. Schoenwaelder*
University of Colorado, MCD Biology, 347 UCB, Boulder, Colorado 80309 U.S.A
*Corresponding Author  Email: monicaeas@yahoo.co.uk
Phenolic compounds play a major role in the interaction of plants with their environment. They are thought to have been a feature of higher plants since early colonization of the land. Phenolics are crucial for many important aspects of plant life. They can play structural roles in different supporting or protective tissues, for example in cell walls, they can be involved in defence strategies, and signalling properties particularly in the interactions between plants and their environment. In brown algae, phenolic compounds are contained within membrane bound vesicles known as physodes, and their roles in algae are thought to be similar to those of higher plant phenolics. They can be stained using various histochemical stains, however, none of these stains are phenolic specific so care must be taken during interpretation of such results. Many, but not all phenolics are also autofluorescent under UV or violet light. Physodes are involved in cell wall construction, both in primary and secondary walls in brown algae. They bind together with other wall components to make a tough wall. They have also been found to play a role at fertilization, in blocking polyspermy in some species. Sperm are very quickly rendered immobile after phenolic release from newly fertilized zygotes seconds after fertilization. Phenolic compounds are thought to be important herbivore deterrents in some species due to their astringent nature. Phenolic compounds also offer effective UV protection in the early life stages and also the adults of many algal species. In the future, this factor may also make them an important player in the pharmaceutical and skincare industries.
Key words: autofluorescence, cell walls, histochemistry, phenolics, physode, UV

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