The Science Seminar Series: September 24, 2009
Sponge-associated microbes: the population and their biotechnological potential
Peter J. McCarthy
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, 5600 US#1 North, Fort Pierce, FL 34946
Time: 4:00 -5:00pm
Many marine sponges are known to harbor a large and varied population of microorganisms: representatives of the bacteria, archaea and fungi are commonly present and these may constitute as much as 60% of the sponge biomass. Over the last 25 years we have amassed a large culture collection of sponge-derived heterotrophic microbes which is a significant resource for the production of natural products used in drug discovery and also of enzymes which can be used in biomass processing. Although the culture collection contains highly diverse microbes, many questions arise: How many of the microbes present in the sponge are being cultivated? Are the cultivated microbes true residents of the sponge? And, if present, are the commonly isolated microbes found at high or low density in the sponge? The use of molecular techniques has allowed us to start to understand the microbial population present in both shallow water sponges such as Axinella corrugata and deep water Lithistid sponges: Culture-independent 16S rDNA libraries have shown the diversity of microbes while the use of Real Time PCR has quantified both cultivated and uncultivated microbes present in the sponges. Such results are beginning to answer fundamental questions and are guiding us in the development of techniques to cultivate additional groups of microbes.