A comparison of the effects of melatonin and bisphenol A on the behavior of motile zooxanthellae


  • Austin Jones Westminster Christian School
  • Dr. Lynell Martinez Westminster Christian School
  • Lisa Garrido Westminster Christian School




coral, coral reef, zooxanthellae, cells, BPA, melatonin, pollution


Bisphenol A (BPA) is classified as an organic chemical pollutant and has received global concern due to its widespread presence in the world’s ocean at relevant environmental concentrations as well as its various negative toxicological and reproductive effects. Endocrine disruption suggests that BPA may compete with hormone receptors involved in cell communication.

Melatonin is an indoleamine produced by many cnidarian species as well as some dinoflagellates. It is a natural neurotransmitter involved in processes such as movement, sexual maturation, metamorphosis, and reproduction.

Research by Ann Tarrant and others suggest that both substances play a role in cell signaling and communication and could be influencing the symbiosis between corals and zooxanthellae. It also proposes that melatonin and BPA share a competitive relationship in vertebrates, with melatonin lowering rates of BPA-induced proliferation of breast cancer cells.

This study aimed to examine the roles and relationships of BPA and melatonin in zooxanthellae, to better understand cell signaling and behavior in dinoflagellates, and explore the similarities and differences in these processes to other marine invertebrates as well as terrestrial vertebrates.

It found negative behavior in zooxanthellae at 100 parts per million BPA and determined that the endocrine-like signal transduction in some dinoflagellates and vertebrates is alike because melatonin and BPA share a competitive relationship in both. It is possible that BPA could be interfering with inter- and intraspecies signaling in marine organisms. Because of these findings, the presence of BPA in high concentrations in the ocean could be devastating to the world’s coral reefs.


Download data is not yet available.

References or Bibliography

Aihara, Y., Maruyama, S., Baird, A. H., Iguchi, A., Takahashi, S., & Minagawa, J. (2019). Green fluorescence from cnidarian hosts attracts symbiotic algae. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(6), 2118-2123. doi:10.1073/ pnas.1812257116 Anthozoa. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www. sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/anthozoa

American Chemical Society (2010). Hard plastics decompose in oceans, releasing endocrine disruptor BPA. Retrieved from https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/ newsreleases/2010/march/hard-plastics-decompose-in-oceans-releasing-erine-disruptor-bpa.html

Bettin, C., Oehlmann, J., & Stroben, E. (1996). TBT-induced imposex in marine neogastropods is mediated by an increasing androgen level. Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen, 50(3), 299-317. doi:10.1007/bf02367105 Cnidarian. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www. britannica.com/animal/cnidarian

Davy, S. K., Allemand, D., & Weis, V. M. (2012). Cell Biology of Cnidarian-Dinoflagellate Symbiosis. Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews, 76(2), 229-261. doi:10.1128/mmbr.05014-11

Diep, F. (2021, April 26). Six Years After Chemical Ban, Fewer Female Snails Are Growing Penises. Retrieved from https://www.popsci.com/article/ science/six-years-after-chemical-ban-fewer-female-snails-are-growing-penises/

Fautin, D. G. (2002). Reproduction of Cnidaria. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 80(10), 1735-1754. doi:10.1139/z02-133

Gowder, S. (2014). Nephrotoxicity of Bisphenol A (BPA) -An Updated Review. Current Molecular Pharmacology, 6(3), 163-172. doi:10.2174/1874467207 666140410115823

How Corals Reproduce. (n.d.). Retrieved from https:// coral.org/coral-reefs-101/coral-reef-ecology/how-corals-reproduce/

Konieczna A, Rutkowska A, Rachoń D. (2015). Health risk of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA). Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2015;66(1):5-11. PMID: 25813067.

Ma, Y., Liu, H., Wu, J., Yuan, L., Wang, Y., Du, X., . . . Zhang, H. (2019). The adverse health effects of bisphenol A and related toxicity mechanisms. Environmental Research, 176, 108575. doi:10.1016/j. envres.2019.108575

Michałowicz, J. (2014). Bisphenol A – Sources, toxicity and biotransformation. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, 37(2), 738-758. doi:10.1016/j. etap.2014.02.003

NOAA. (2011, April 04). Corals can reproduce asexually and sexually. Retrieved from https:// floridakeys.noaa.gov/corals/reproduce.html

Oberdörster, E., & Mcclellan-Green, P. (2002). Mechanisms of imposex induction in the mud snail, Ilyanassa obsoleta: TBT as a neurotoxin and aromatase inhibitor. Marine Environmental Research, 54(3-5), 715-718. doi:10.1016/s0141-1136(02)00118-6

Smith, L. D., Negri, A. P., Philipp, E., Webster, N. S., & Heyward, A. J. (2003). The effects of antifoulant-paint-contaminated sediments on coral recruits and branchlets. Marine Biology, 143(4), 651-657. doi:10.1007/s00227-003-1107-7

Tarrant, A. M. (2005). Endocrine-like Signaling in Cnidarians: Current Understanding and Implications for Ecophysiology. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 45(1), 201-214. doi:10.1093/icb/45.1.201

Tarrant, A. M. (2007). Hormonal signaling in cnidarians: Do we understand the pathways well enough to know whether they are being disrupted? Ecotoxicology, 16(1), 5-13. doi:10.1007/s10646-006- 0121-1

US Department of Commerce, N. O. (2013, June 01). Zooxanthellae...What's That - Corals: NOAA's National Ocean Service Education. Retrieved from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_ corals/coral02_zooxanthellae.html

Walsh, C. A., Qin, L., Tien, J. C., Young, L. S., & Xu, J. (2012). The Function of Steroid Receptor Coactivator-1 in Normal Tissues and Cancer. International Journal of Biological Sciences, 8(4), 470- 485. doi:10.7150/ijbs.4125

Wang, T., Liu, B., Guan, Y., Gong, M., Zhang, W., Pan, J., . . . Ye, L. (2018). Melatonin inhibits the proliferation of breast cancer cells induced by bisphenol A via targeting estrogen receptor-related pathways. Thoracic Cancer, 9(3), 368-375. doi:10.1111/1759-7714.12587

Yao, T. P., Ku, G., Zhou, N., Scully, R., & Livingston, D. M. (1996). The nuclear hormone receptor coactivator SRC-1 is a specific target of p300. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 93(20), 10626-10631. doi:10.1073/pnas.93.20.10626



How to Cite

Jones, A., Martinez, L., & Garrido, L. (2022). A comparison of the effects of melatonin and bisphenol A on the behavior of motile zooxanthellae. Journal of Student Research, 11(2). https://doi.org/10.47611/jsrhs.v11i2.2578



AP Capstone™ Research