Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 11–20 | Cite as

Metagenomic approaches to exploit the biotechnological potential of the microbial consortia of marine sponges

  • Jonathan Kennedy
  • Julian R. Marchesi
  • Alan D. W. Dobson


Natural products isolated from sponges are an important source of new biologically active compounds. However, the development of these compounds into drugs has been held back by the difficulties in achieving a sustainable supply of these often-complex molecules for pre-clinical and clinical development. Increasing evidence implicates microbial symbionts as the source of many of these biologically active compounds, but the vast majority of the sponge microbial community remain uncultured. Metagenomics offers a biotechnological solution to this supply problem. Metagenomes of sponge microbial communities have been shown to contain genes and gene clusters typical for the biosynthesis of biologically active natural products. Heterologous expression approaches have also led to the isolation of secondary metabolism gene clusters from uncultured microbial symbionts of marine invertebrates and from soil metagenomic libraries. Combining a metagenomic approach with heterologous expression holds much promise for the sustainable exploitation of the chemical diversity present in the sponge microbial community.


Metagenomics Marine sponges Natural products 



JK is in receipt of a Marie Curie Transfer of Knowledge Host Fellowship (grant no. MTKD-CT-2006-042062). The authors acknowledge a receipt of funding from the Marine Institute in Ireland under the “Biodiscovery Programme” for work in this area.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Kennedy
    • 2
  • Julian R. Marchesi
    • 1
    • 3
  • Alan D. W. Dobson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity College CorkCorkIreland
  2. 2.Environmental Research InstituteUniversity College CorkCorkIreland
  3. 3.Alimentary Pharmabiotic CentreUniversity College CorkCorkIreland

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