JUL 07, 2020 7:18 AM PDT

Anticancer Compound Found in Marine Bacteria

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Bacteria live in symbiosis with many animals in the world. These tiny single-celled creatures often play crucial roles in metabolism and food absorption in their host organism, and their physiological effects can have a significant influence on their host's health. Microbes, including those that live as part of a microbiome in or on a larger animal, have their own genomes, so they produce and release small molecules that have a biological effect. Sometimes microbes have been the source of some important drugs.

The Antarctic sea squirt Synoicum adareanum at 80 feet, among red algae and starfish on the seafloor. / Credit: Bill Baker, USF

In two new reports recently published in Marine Drugs, researchers have revealed more about potential new medications that have been identified in marine animals.

Sea squirts are invertebrate animals that live on the floor of oceans around the world. Synoicum adareanum is a type of sea squirt that's native to the waters around Antarctica. They are known to carry a molecule with anti-melanoma properties called Palmerolide A.

"Our longer-term goal is to figure out which of the many bacteria within this species is producing palmerolide, but to do this, there is a lot we need to learn about the microbiome of S. adareanum," said research leader and the first author of one of the publications, Alison Murray, Ph.D. of the Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Reno. "Our new study describes many advances that we have made toward that goal over the last few years."

At the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, scientists in the Marine Natural Product Chemistry Research Unit are also on the hunt for biomolecules that could make great new pharmaceuticals. Researchers analyzed a type of alga and a fungus that lives in symbiosis with it in Kiel Fjord to find remedies for skin cancer and infections. To find these compounds, the researchers have to purify the chemical constituents from the marine organisms.

"One of the biggest pitfalls in drug research is the isolation of already described natural molecules, using the 'classical' bioactivity-guided isolation process," explained Dr. Deniz Tasdemir, the senior author of the other study and head of Research Unit Marine Natural Product Chemistry at GEOMAR and GEOMAR Centre for Marine Biotechnology. "This approach is complicated and often prone to failures."

To overcome this problem, scientists used computational tools and screens for bioactivity. Their efforts showed that the brown alga Fucus vesiculosus (also known as bladderwrack) can interfere with the growth of a widely-known pathogen, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a common cause of infection in hospitals.

"Algorithm-based bioinformatics strategies and machine learning tools have enabled us to map the massive metabolome of brown alga and at the same time predict the molecular clusters responsible for their antibiotic activity", said the first author of that report, Dr. Larissa Büdenbender.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert!, Desert Research Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR), Murray et al Marine Drugs 2020, Buedenbender et al Marine Drugs 2020

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 25, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Rewrite the Books: Retinoic Acid Does Not Trigger Meiosis
MAY 25, 2020
Rewrite the Books: Retinoic Acid Does Not Trigger Meiosis
Researchers are challenging what we thought we knew about the mechanism of sexual reproduction.
JUN 09, 2020
Microbiology
Bacteria Will Commit Suicide to Spare Their Colony
JUN 09, 2020
Bacteria Will Commit Suicide to Spare Their Colony
In nature, strains of bacteria usually grow in colonies, and together, they are tougher.
JUN 15, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Revealing the Network of Neurons in the Heart
JUN 15, 2020
Revealing the Network of Neurons in the Heart
The autonomic nervous system is linked to the intrinsic cardiac nervous system (ICN), which is thought to help regulate ...
JUN 25, 2020
Cancer
Examining the Glioma Influenced Immune System
JUN 25, 2020
Examining the Glioma Influenced Immune System
The human body is a complicated network of systems and signals.  Many systems regulate themselves or others in vari ...
JUL 21, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
In a First, DNA Quadruple Helix Observed in Live Human Cells
JUL 21, 2020
In a First, DNA Quadruple Helix Observed in Live Human Cells
If you've seen a representation of a DNA molecule, you've seen the double helix, in which two strands of genetic materia ...
AUG 02, 2020
Microbiology
Examining the Existence of Organelles in Bacteria
AUG 02, 2020
Examining the Existence of Organelles in Bacteria
Cells can be grouped into two general categories: prokaryotic, which make up microbes like bacteria and archaea, or euka ...
Loading Comments...