Issue Date: March 19, 2007
I was fascinated by the cover story on biofilms (C&EN, Oct. 23, 2006, page 17). Of particular marine ecological significance was the mention of a natural class of quorum-sensing inhibitors called furanones, reportedly discovered in the marine red alga Delisia pulchra in the late 1990s. While I take nothing away from this exciting discovery of unique biological activity—in fact I laud the accomplishment—a Medline search of Delisia retrieves articles by Peter Steinberg and others, none prior to 1996, in accord with the text of your article.
A few years earlier, William H. Gerwick and I, then at the College of Pharmacy, Oregon State University, Corvallis, were exploring the chemistry of Oregon seaweeds, including the red alga Laurencia spectabilis, which was collected intertidally from exposed, rocky locations. We published with our collaborators at Cornell University (Phytochemistry 1992, 31, 1723) the isolation and structure elucidation of a furanone from this alga identical, except for the secondary alcohol you show, to the diketone/furanone equilibrium structures on page 24 of your article. At that time, we did not know the biological function of laurencione, though it was produced by the alga in large quantities. Now, I propose that laurencione plays a role in algal avoidance of colonization by bacteria and/or barnacles. In retrospect, our Laurencia specimens were, at least on macroscopic examination, free of epiphytic or overgrowing organisms, more so than most Oregon seaweeds.
Matthew W. Bernart
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