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Sponge-associated bacteria in a boreal deep water reef system


In the oceans a great variety of organisms exist which have developed a multitude of different strategies for adaptation and survival. The sedentary nature of many marine organisms has led them to produce a diversity of natural chemical compounds, synthesized for their defense. Resent research has revealed that some of these secondary metabolites possess a potential for pharmacological usage.
Within the BMBF priority program “Marine Natural Products Research”, the multidisciplinary project BOSMAN – BOreal Sponges-Sources of MArine Natural Products -  has undertaken the task of examining newly discovered compounds produced by marine porifera in boreal habitates.


One main goal of the project has been the investigation of the role of sponge associated bacteria as producers of natural compounds. These bacteria may account for up to 60% of the sponge biomass. Recent investigations have indicated a bacterial source of many compounds, formerly attributed to the host organisms.
The sampling of the sponges present in specific environments of deep cold-water reefs (Sula Ridge) near the coast of Norway was performed at a research trip (24-07-99 to 06-08-99) with a manned submersible.


From a variety of the collected sponges, fourteen different species were selected for further microbiological investigation. In our work group, the enrichment and cultivation of the bacteria was performed using plating techniques for aerobic cultivation and a modified Hungate technique for anaerobic organisms on various media.


A further task has been the isolation of the bacterial strains and the build up of a strain collection. Preliminary phylogenetic identification of the bacterial isolates was achieved by amplification of the 16S rRNA gene, followed by sequencing and alignment to gene bank data. The physiological characterization included standard tests and BIOLOG® analysis.
To date, 400 bacterial clones have been isolated. 175 isolates have been sequenced and phylogenetically affiliated and are presently being tested for their physiological capacities. As is typical of the marine environment, many of the isolates belong to the genus Pseudoalteromonas which are known to produce a broad variety of secondary metabolites. In addition, due to the different media and enrichment methods applied, a broad spectrum of organisms has been isolated in lesser abundancy, many of which were, up until now, considered to be unculturable. A typical example would be the representatives of the alpha subdivision of proteobacteria.
Further chemical, physical, and biological analysis of the isolates is being performed by our cooperative partner.


This project is supported by the BMBF.

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Head of Chair

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Ulrich Szewzyk
BH 6-1
BH-N 604
Tel +49 30 314 73 461


Bärbel Minx
BH 6-1
BH-N 603
Tel +49 30 314 73 460

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Adress Chair of Environmental Microbiology

Environmental Microbiology
of Environmental Technology
Faculty of Process Sciences
BH 6-1
Ernst-Reuter-Platz 1
10587 Berlin
Tel +49 30 314 73 460
Fax +49 30 314 73 673