Bioactive Natural Products from Marine Surface-Associated Bacteria

Specific bacterial species that are commonly found in association with marine plants and animals often produce allelochemicals (i.e. ‘chemical warfare’) to sustain their ecological niche in the biofilm community. The overall aim of this project is to bridge our understanding of these bacterial-host associations to the targeted isolation of novel natural compounds with biological activity, e.g. antimicrobial, antifungal, antialgal, antilarval. While the elucidation of these allelochemicals primarily serves to understand the chemical ecology of bacterial-host associations, these compounds will undoubtedly have a number of commercial applications.

We currently have a collection of marine surface-associated bacteria that have been screened against a variety of target strains, and their potential to produce bioactive compounds is well understood. The challenge is to use analytical chemical tools such as high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with diverse detector systems (e.g. LC-MS), to purify bioactive compounds in a bioassay-guided approach. This involves devising chemical purification strategies for primarily unknown bioactive targets out of complex crude samples coupled with sensitive bioassays that allow us to trace the active ingredients down to pure compounds. Finally, pure compounds will be subjected to structural elucidation procedures such as mass spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry.

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