AME 40:191-203 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/ame040191

Effects of Caribbean sponge secondary metabolites on bacterial surface colonization

Sarah R. Kelly1, Eliane Garo2, Paul R. Jensen2, William Fenical2, Joseph R. Pawlik1,*

1Department of Biology and Marine Biology, Center for Marine Science, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, USA
2Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego,La Jolla, California 92093, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Crude organic tissue extracts from 8 species of Caribbean sponges were assayed for inhibitory effects on surface colonization using 24 environmental marine bacterial isolates, 4 known marine invertebrate pathogens, and 1 common fouling bacterium. Each extract was tested for its effects on bacterial attachment, growth and swarming. The 24 bacterial strains were isolated from sponge surfaces, nearby substrata, or adjacent seawater. Extracts were incorporated into agar for assays of bacterial attachment and swarming. Growth-inhibition assays were conducted with the standard agar disk-diffusion assay. Of the 24 bacterial isolates, 23 were significantly inhibited from attaching to an extract-treated agar surface; 1 isolate from the surface of Agelas conifera exhibited significantly enhanced attachment on agar treated with the extract of that sponge. Sponge extracts had the least effect on growth: of 184 assays, 11 displayed significant antibacterial activity, all of these from 4 sponge species (A. conifera, Ailochroia crassa, Amphimedon compressa, and Aplysina fulva). The same isolate from the surface of A. conifera that exhibited enhanced attachment in response to the extract of that sponge exhibited inhibited growth in response to the same extract. Six out of 24 bacterial isolates exhibited swarming, the majority (67%) of which were isolated from substratum sources. Extracts from 4 of the 8 sponge species (the same species as listed above) inhibited swarming in all 6 strains, while the remaining extracts enhanced, inhibited, or had no effect on swarming depending on the strain. Bioassay-guided fractionation of the extract of A. crassa yielded 2 compounds responsible for inhibiting attachment and swarming, respectively. Ianthellin was identified as the metabolite that inhibited attachment, whereas another brominated tryosine metabolite inhibited swarming. Chemical defenses of sponges may target microbial attachment, and to a lesser degree influence swarming and growth. Non-toxic metabolites may play the greatest role in affecting bacterial epibiosis on the surfaces of marine sponges.


KEY WORDS: Bacterial attachment · Bacterial swarming · Bromotyrosine metabolites · Microbial chemical defense · Quorum sensing · Antibacterial


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