Australia: The Land Where Time Began

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Hydrogen Peroxide Production by in planktonic microorganisms by UV-B

The synthesis of hydrogen peroxide from water and oxygen is activated by UV-B Radiation in many kinds of proteins. This process was initially discovered in antibodies and since then has been used in the search for new mechanisms related to immune defence. As the authors1 have shown in this paper that the natural association between this common photocatalysis and catalase transforms UV-B photons into heat in a cyclic reaction. In basic biology this represents a basic defence mechanism to protect the organism from UV-B radiation and cold, and it is this activity that drives the buoyancy and production of planktonic microorganisms in the cold water of the oceans. As the amount of UV-B radiation that reaches the surface of the Earth is mainly dependent on changes in the ozone layer, at times when the microorganisms are gathered near the top of the water column during seasonal production the defence mechanism would be over-activated by the depletion of ozone with the result that it could contribute to the accelerated melting of sea ice, surface warming and changes in the ecosystem, such as what is happening at high latitudes. The author1 therefore conclude that photo-production, that is UV-B-driven, and decomposition of hydrogen peroxide in plankton, could possibly be a new, hidden, biogeochemical process that is under the control of the ozone layer, and this has important effects on the ecosystem and climate.



Sources & Further reading

  1. Liang, Mao-Chang, Hyman Hartman, Robert E. Kopp, Joseph L. Kirschvink, and Yuk L. Yung. "Production of Hydrogen Peroxide in the Atmosphere of a Snowball Earth and the Origin of Oxygenic Photosynthesis." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103, no. 50 (December 12, 2006 2006): 18896-99.


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated  08/06/2013

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