Marine Biotechnology

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 375–398 | Cite as

Principles of Biofouling Protection in Marine Sponges: A Model for the Design of Novel Biomimetic and Bio-inspired Coatings in the Marine Environment?

  • Werner E. G. Müller
  • Xiaohong Wang
  • Peter Proksch
  • Carole C. Perry
  • Ronald Osinga
  • Johan Gardères
  • Heinz C. Schröder
Invited Review


The process of biofouling of marine structures and substrates, such as platforms or ship hulls, proceeds in multiple steps. Soon after the formation of an initial conditioning film, formed via the adsorption of organic particles to natural or man-made substrates, a population of different bacterial taxa associates under the formation of a biofilm. These microorganisms communicate through a complex quorum sensing network. Macro-foulers, e.g., barnacles, then settle and form a fouling layer on the marine surfaces, a process that globally has severe impacts both on the economy and on the environment. Since the ban of tributyltin, an efficient replacement of this antifouling compound by next-generation antifouling coatings that are environmentally more acceptable and also showing longer half-lives has not yet been developed. The sponges, as sessile filter-feeder animals, have evolved antifouling strategies to protect themselves against micro- and subsequent macro-biofouling processes. Experimental data are summarized and suggest that coating of the sponge surface with bio-silica contributes to the inhibition of the formation of a conditioning film. A direct adsorption of the surfaces by microorganisms can be impaired through poisoning the organisms with direct-acting secondary metabolites or toxic peptides. In addition, first, compounds from sponges have been identified that interfere with the anti-quorum sensing network. Sponge secondary metabolites acting selectively on diatom colonization have not yet been identified. Finally, it is outlined that direct-acting secondary metabolites inhibiting the growth of macro-fouling animals and those that poison the multidrug resistance pump are available. It is concluded that rational screening programs for inhibitors of the complex and dynamic problem of biofilm production, based on multidisciplinary studies and using sponges as a model, are required in the future.


Biofilm Marine coatings Antifouling strategies Synergism Polyphosphate Copper Bisphosphonate Bioinspired approach 



W.E.G. M. is a holder of an ERC Advanced Investigator Grant (no. 268476 BIOSILICA). This work was supported by grants from the European Commission (project no. PIAPP-GA-2011-286059–CoreShell and project no. PIRSES-GA-2009-246987–MarBioTec*EU-CN*, European-Chinese Research Staff Exchange Cluster on Marine Biotechnology), the European Commission/EUREKA (EUROSTARS, project no. 4289–SILIBACTS), the Public Welfare Project of Ministry of Land and Resources of the People’s Republic of China (grant no. 201011005-06), and the International S&T Cooperation Program of China (grant no. 2008DFA00980). We gratefully acknowledge Prof. Dr. Franz Brümmer (Universität Stuttgart) who allowed us to reproduce image in Fig. 1j in this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Werner E. G. Müller
    • 1
  • Xiaohong Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peter Proksch
    • 3
  • Carole C. Perry
    • 4
  • Ronald Osinga
    • 5
  • Johan Gardères
    • 1
  • Heinz C. Schröder
    • 1
  1. 1.ERC Advanced Investigator Grant Research Group at Institute for Physiological ChemistryUniversity Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg UniversityMainzGermany
  2. 2.National Research Center for Geoanalysis, Chinese Academy of Geological SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Institute for Pharmaceutical Biology and BiotechnologyHeinrich Heine UniversityDüsseldorfGermany
  4. 4.Department of Chemistry and PhysicsNottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK
  5. 5.Fish Culture and Fisheries GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenthe Netherlands

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