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Astaxanthin and papilioerythrinone in the skin of birds: a chromatic convergence of two metabolic routes with different precursors?

AuthorsGarcía-de Blas, Esther ; Mateo, Rafael ; Alonso-Álvarez, Carlos
Carotenoid metabolism: Bird coloration
Alectoris rufa
Issue Date2014
CitationNaturwissenschaften 101(5): 407-416 (2014)
AbstractCarotenoids are organic pigments involved in several important physiological functions and may serve as indicators of individual quality in animals. These pigments are only obtained by animals from the diet, but they can be later transformed into other carotenoids by specific enzymatic reactions. The diet of farm-reared and probably wild red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) is mainly based on cereals that contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. These two carotenoids are also predominant in internal tissues and blood of red-legged partridges. However, in their integuments, astaxanthin and papilioerythrinone (the last one identified in this work) are mainly present in their free form and esterified with fatty acids. According to available literature about carotenoid metabolism in animals, we propose that astaxanthin (λ max=478 nm) and papilioerythrinone (λ max=452-478 nm) are the result of a chromatic convergence of the transformation of dietary zeaxanthin and lutein, respectively. Moreover, the results obtained in this work provide the first identification by liquid chromatography coupled to accurate mass quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer system of papilioerythrinone (m/z 581.3989 [M+H] +) in the skin (i.e., not feathers) of a vertebrate. Astaxanthin and papilioerythrinone are very close in terms of chemical structure and coloration, and the combination of these two keto-carotenoids is responsible for the red color of the ornaments in red-legged partridges.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1007/s00114-014-1169-z
issn: 0028-1042
e-issn: 1432-1904
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