Drugs from sea study finds sponge health link to bacteria

day's naturally occurring antibiotics.

In the current study, the team has cultured several new actinomycetes in the laboratory for further studies. "Isolating the compound-producing microbes or its genes is obviously a much better approach than trying to harvest and grow sponges, which is extremely difficult," comments Hill.

The finding of the predominance of newly discovered bacterial strain (of the family, alpha Proteobacteria, very common to coastal waters) is also somewhat of a scientific departure. Previous cultivation studies of such bacterial-sponge associations showed that bacterial populations in sponges could be very diverse.

"This provides an excellent opportunity to assess temporal and geographic variations in this component of the community as well as variations between individual Rhopaloeides odorabile at a single location," Hill suggests. "The stability of microbial communities associated with sponges has not been study widely and has important implications for production of symbiont-derived bioactive compounds and for use of sponges as source materials for microbial diversity in programs screening for natural products. We think this shows that it is a true symbiont of this sponge."

The R. odorabiles sponge is common throughout the Great Barrier Reef region and reflects the typical ecological conditions. The team studied the microbes of the sponge collected from ten different areas of the coral reefs near Australia. The bacteria may play a role in food intake.

The scientists found that the microbes surrounding the sponge's food ingesting chambers, sort of a multiple mouth system of such animals. But they are not actually food for the sponge. Because they could not find the strain of bacterium in water around the sponges, the scientists say it likely the two have a specific and intimate relationship.

There is growing interest that in some cases the compounds are being synthesized by bacteria living on and in the spong

Contact: Steve Berberich
University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute

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