Morphological and Optical Modification of Melanosomes in Fish Integuments upon Oxidation

Sebastien Mouchet, Fabio Cortesi, Bojana M. Bokic, Vladimir Lazovic, Pete S. Vukusic, N. Justin Marshall, Branko Kolaric

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Reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as superoxide radicals O2−, hydroxyl radicals OH−, and hydrogen peroxide H2O2 may have detrimental effects on marine organisms, including their integuments and visual appearances. Although some studies have described the impact of ROS on marine ecosystems and species ecology, the influence on the optical response of the integuments of marine species and on their visual appearances remains unknown. In this article, we used histology and optical characterisation to show, for the first time, that skin melanophores (melanin-containing chromophores) of the coral reef fish, Stegastes apicalis, change their shapes and fluorescent proprieties upon oxidation with H2O2 radicals. Our observations also suggest that pheomelanosomes may occur in fish integuments, where, previously, it was thought that fish melanosomes only contain eumelanin. This investigation relied on light and electron microscopy and steady-state fluorimetry, as well as time-resolved streak imaging systems. We suggest that the changes in the morphological and spectral characteristics of melanophores can be used as a marker of physiological stress induced by environmental factors such as ROS. Moreover, S. apicalis may be used as a potential model for studying the interaction between the surrounding environment and natural organisms in biologically diverse ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-572
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • water contamination
  • marine pollution
  • clean water
  • water quality
  • ecosystem protection
  • coastal biodiversity
  • marine biodiversity
  • reactive oxygen species
  • coral reef fish
  • gregory
  • Stegastes apicalis
  • melanophores
  • Melanosomes
  • melanosomes


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