Photosensitivity in animals is defined as a severe dermatitis that results from a heightened reactivity of skin cells and associated dermal tissues upon their exposure to sunlight, following ingestion or contact with UV reactive secondary plant products. Photosensitivity occurs in animal cells as a reaction that is mediated by a light absorbing molecule, specifically in this case a plant-produced metabolite that is heterocyclic or polyphenolic. In sensitive animals, this reaction is most severe in non-pigmented skin which has the least protection from UV or visible light exposure. Photosensitization in a biological system such as the epidermis is an oxidative or other chemical change in a molecule in response to light-induced excitation of endogenous or exogenously-delivered molecules within the tissue. Photo-oxidation can also occur in the plant itself, resulting in the generation of reactive oxygen species, free radical damage and eventual DNA degradation. Similar cellular changes occur in affected herbivores and are associated with an accumulation of photodynamic molecules in the affected dermal tissues or circulatory system of the herbivore. Recent advances in our ability to identify and detect secondary products at trace levels in the plant and surrounding environment, or in organisms that ingest plants, have provided additional evidence for the role of secondary metabolites in photosensitization of grazing herbivores. This review outlines the role of unique secondary products produced by higher plants in the animal photosensitization process, describes their chemistry and localization in the plant as well as impacts of the environment upon their production, discusses their direct and indirect effects on associated animal systems and presents several examples of well-characterized plant photosensitization in animal systems.
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Understanding photosensitisation in sheep grazing the pasture legume 'Biserrula pelecinus'. FINAL REPORT
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