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Journal Articles Biological Reviews Year : 2019

Ommochromes in invertebrates: biochemistry and cell biology


Ommochromes are widely occurring coloured molecules of invertebrates, arising from tryptophan catabolism through the so-called Tryptophan → Ommochrome pathway. They are mainly known to mediate compound eye vision, as well as reversible and irreversible colour patterning. Ommochromes might also be involved in cell homeostasis by detoxifying free tryptophan and buffering oxidative stress. These biological functions are directly linked to their unique chromophore, the phenoxazine/phenothiazine system. The most recent reviews on ommochrome biochemistry were published more than 30 years ago, since when new results on the enzymes of the ommochrome pathway, on ommochrome photochemistry as well as on their antiradical capacities have been obtained. Ommochromasomes are the organelles where ommochromes are synthesised and stored. Hence, they play an important role in mediating ommochrome functions. Ommochromasomes are part of the lysosome-related organelles (LROs) family, which includes other pigmented organelles such as vertebrate melanosomes. Ommochromasomes are unique because they are the only LRO for which a recycling process during reversible colour change has been described. Herein, we provide an update on ommochrome biochemistry, photoreactivity and antiradical capacities to explain their diversity and behaviour both in vivo and in vitro. We also highlight new biochemical techniques, such as quantum chemistry, metabolomics and crystallography, which could lead to major advances in their chemical and functional characterisation. We then focus on ommochromasome structure and formation by drawing parallels with the well-characterised melanosomes of vertebrates. The biochemical, genetic, cellular and microscopic tools that have been applied to melanosomes should provide important information on the ommochromasome life cycle. We propose LRO-based models for ommochromasome biogenesis and recycling that could be tested in the future. Using the context of insect compound eyes, we finally emphasise the importance of an integrated approach in understanding the biological functions of ommochromes.
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hal-02333637 , version 1 (25-10-2019)



Florent Figon, Jérome Casas. Ommochromes in invertebrates: biochemistry and cell biology. Biological Reviews, 2019, 94 (1), pp.156-183. ⟨10.1111/brv.12441⟩. ⟨hal-02333637⟩
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