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Pure Appl. Chem., 2009, Vol. 81, No. 6, pp. 1093-1111

Published online 2009-05-05

Recent aspects of chemical ecology: Natural toxins, coral communities, and symbiotic relationships

Daisuke Uemura1,2*, Masaki Kita3, Hirokazu Arimoto4 and Makoto Kitamura1

1 Department of Biosciences and Informatics, Keio University, Hiyoshi 3-14-1, Yokohama 223-8522, Japan
2 Institute for Advanced Research, Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa, Nagoya 464-8602, Japan
3 Graduate School of Pure and Applied Sciences, University of Tsukuba, 1-1-1 Tennodai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8571, Japan
4 Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Sendai, 981-8555, Japan

Abstract: The discovery of new ecologically active compounds often triggers the development of basic scientific concepts in the field of biological sciences, since such compounds have direct physiological and behavioral effects on other living organisms. We have focused on the identification of natural key compounds that control biologically and physiologically intriguing phenomena. We describe three recent aspects of chemical ecology that we have investigated: natural toxins, coral communities, and symbiotic relationships. Blarina toxin (BLTX) is a lethal mammalian venom that was isolated from the short-tailed shrew. Duck-billed platypus venom shows potent Ca2+ influx in neuroblastoma cells. The venom of the solitary wasp contains arginine kinase-like protein and is used to paralyze its prey to feed its larva. The ecological behaviors of corals are controlled by combinations of small molecules. The polyol compound symbiodinolide may serve as a defense substance for symbiotic dinoflagellates to prevent digestion of their host animals. These compounds reveal the wonder of nature, in both terrestrial and marine ecological systems.