Animals rely on their diet for amino acids that they are incapable either of synthesizing or of synthesizing in sufficient quantities to meet metabolic needs. These are the so-called ‘essential amino acids’. This set of amino acids is similar among the vertebrates and many of the invertebrates. Previously, no information was available for amino acid synthesis by the most primitive invertebrates, the Cnidaria. The purpose of this study was to examine amino acid synthesis by representative cnidarians within the Order Scleractinia. Three species of zooxanthellate reef coral, Montastraea faveolata, Acropora cervicornis and Porites divaricata, and two species of non-zooxanthellate coral, Tubastrea coccinea and Astrangia poculata, were incubated with 14C-labelled glucose or with the 14C-labelled amino acids glutamic acid, lysine or valine. Radiolabel tracer was followed into protein amino acids. A total of 17 amino acids, including hydroxyproline, were distinguishable by the techniques used. Of these, only threonine was not found radiolabelled in any of the samples. We could not detect tryptophan or cysteine, nor distinguish between the amino acid pairs glutamic acid and glutamine, or aspartic acid and asparagine. Eight amino acids normally considered essential for animals were made by the five corals tested, although some of them were made only in small quantities. These eight amino acids are valine, isoleucine, leucine, tyrosine, phenylalanine histidine, methionine and lysine. The ability of cnidarians to synthesize these amino acids could be yet another indicator of a separate evolutionary history of the cnidarians from the rest of the Metazoa.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.