The oceans are the source of a large group of structurally unique natural products that are mainly accumulated in invertebrates such as sponges, tunicates, bryozoans, and molluscs. Several of these compounds (especially the tunicate metabolite ET-743) show pronounced pharmacological activities and are interesting candidates for new drugs primarily in the area of cancer treatment. Other compounds are currently being developed as an analgesic (ziconotide from the mollusc Conus magus) or to treat inflammation. Numerous natural products from marine invertebrates show striking structural similarities to known metabolites of microbial origin, suggesting that microorganisms (bacteria, microalgae) are at least involved in their biosynthesis or are in fact the true sources of these respective metabolites. This assumption is corroborated by several studies on natural products from sponges that proved these compounds to be localized in symbiotic bacteria or cyanobacteria. Recently, molecular methods have successfully been applied to study the microbial diversity in marine sponges and to gain evidence for an involvement of bacteria in the biosynthesis of the bryostatins in the bryozoan Bugula neritina.
- marine biology
- water microbiology