Surplus jellyfish seen as additive source

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chemistry Amino acid

Controlling exploding jellyfish populations may present the food
and cosmetics industries with interesting new additives, suggests
new research from Japan.

Writing in the Journal of Natural Products​, researchers from Riken (the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research) in Saitama and Shimva Chemical Industries in Kyoto, describe a process for extracting high yields of a protein substance called mucin that could be used as a starting material for production of designer mucins with multiple uses. Lead researcher Dr. Kiminori Ushida told​: "I think [using the mucin as a] dispersing agent, emulsifying agent, gelling agent would be possible. The use of this material can be expected based on the similarity to animal gastric mucins which have been used for long time but are now avoided after the BSE problem."​ In recent years population of jellyfish have been exploding - including 6-foot-long monsters weighing more than 200 kilograms - with warmer oceans, protective artificial structures on coasts, and indiscriminate fishing practices producing favourable environments for their polyps. "The removal of jellyfish has now become a necessary routine in gulf areas, ports, industrial facilities, and power plants along the coasts,"​ explained the researchers. "As a result, a huge number of jellyfish bodies are collected and accumulate as waste."​ The researchers investigated the extraction from five species of jellyfish of a novel glycoprotein, a member of the mucin family. The yields, ranging from one to three per cent of dry weight, and 0.02 to 0.1 per cent of wet weight, were classified as high. The extracted polymeric substance from all of the species formed a gel in aqueous solution. The glycoprotein was found to contain unique tandem repeats of eight amino acids, with two threonine residues probably in the form glycosylated by N-acetyl-D-galactosamine (GalNAc), said the researchers. "We named this substance, which is common in jellyfish and similar to the human mucin MUC5AC, "qniumucin" and suggested the utilization of this compound as a new marine resource,"​ they added. Dr. Ushida and co-workers report that this mucin could be used as a starting point for the production of "designer" mucins for various purposes, but noted that further research would be necessary to explore this area fully. "The mass production of qniumucin is possible because a large number of jellyfish can be obtained as waste,"​ wrote the authors. "Various applications are expected for this substance considering the present commercial use of gastric mucin from porcine stomachs and mucin from bovine submaxillary glands, substitution for human mucus… moisture retainers for cosmetic materials, and food additives,"​ they concluded. Source: Journal of Natural Products​ ASAP Article 10.1021/np060341b S0163-3864(06)00341-7 "Mucin (Qniumucin), a Glycoprotein from Jellyfish, and Determination of Its Main Chain Structure" ​Authors: A. Masuda, T. Baba, N. Dohmae, M. Yamamura, H .Wada, and K. Ushida

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