Didemnum molle is a colonial ascidian that harbors the prokaryotic photosymbiont Prochloron in its cloacal cavity. Colonies occur over a relatively wide bathymetric range (approximately 0–30 m), and colony color is widely variable, partly depending on depth. Colonies in shallow sites are bright white, with densely distributed spicules, and often with brown or dark gray pigmentation, while colonies in deeper sites are less pigmented, with sparsely distributed spicules. Didemnum molle colonies contain mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) as UV-absorbing substances. These include mycosporine-glycine, shinorine, and porphyra-334. Among colonies from 5, 10, 15, and 20-m depths, the concentration of total MAAs was significantly high at 10 m and low at 20 m. Colonies at 10 m need to maintain low spicule densities to have enough photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) to maintain the photosymbionts, and they probably concentrate MAAs to block UV radiation without attenuating PAR. Because high levels of PAR cause photoinhibition of photosynthesis, spicules and pigment cells would be more effective for photoprotection in shallow water. Colonies of D. molle may adjust the light conditions for photosymbionts by combining MAAs, spicules, and pigment cells in varying amounts.
mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs)