Red fluorescence of European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) spines results from free-base porphyrins of potential microbial origin

Hamchand, Randy, Lafountain, Amy M., Büchel, Rhea, Maas, Kendra R., Hird, Sarah M., Warren, Martin ORCID:, Frank, Harry A. and Brückner, Christian (2021) Red fluorescence of European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) spines results from free-base porphyrins of potential microbial origin. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 47 (6). pp. 588-596. ISSN 0098-0331

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Bioluminescence has been recognized as an important means for inter- and intra-species communication. A growing number of reports of red fluorescence occurring in keratinaceous materials have become available. The fluorophore(s) in these cases were shown to be, or suspected to be, free base porphyrins. The red fluorescence found in the downs of bustards was associated with inter-species signaling in mate selection. First reported in 1925, we confirm that spines of the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) when irradiated with UV (365–395 nm) light display red fluorescence localized in the light-colored sections of their proximal ends. Using reflectance fluorescence spectroscopy, we confirmed that the fluorophores responsible for the emission are free-base porphyrins, as suspected in the original report. Base-induced degradation of the spine matrix and subsequent HPLC, UV-vis, and ESI+ mass spectrometry analysis revealed the presence of a mixture of coproporphyrin III and uroporphyrin III as predominant porphyrins and a minor fraction of protoporphyrin IX. Investigation of the spine microbiome uncovered the abundant presence of bacteria known to secrete and/or interconvert porphyrins and that are not present on the non-fluorescing quills of the North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum). Given this circumstantial evidence, we propose the porphyrins could originate from commensal bacteria. Furthermore, we hypothesize that the fluorescence may be incidental and of no biological function for the hedgehog.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: Funding for this work was provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) through grants CHE-1465133, CHE-1800361, and a fellowship to RH through grant HRD-1400382. We acknowledge Jeremy L. Balsbaugh of the University of Connecticut (UConn) Proteomics & Metabolomics Facility, part of the UConn Center for Open Research Resources & Equipment (CORE), as well as Adam Graichen of the Mass Spectrometry Facility at the UConn Department of Chemistry for MS support. We also acknowledge Yale University’s West Campus Analytical Core for permitting the use of their mass spectrometry facility. 2 Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.
Uncontrolled Keywords: biofluorescence,commensal bacteria,hedgehogs,microbiome,porphyrins,ecology, evolution, behavior and systematics,biochemistry ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1100/1105
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > Research Centres > Norwich Institute for Healthy Aging
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2022 11:30
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2023 01:13
DOI: 10.1007/s10886-021-01279-6

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