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Genome scanning strategies to identify genes encoding novel bioactive metabolites from marine sponge derived microorganisms

University College Cork

Brief of Description of Project

Marine  microorganisms  are  an  extremely  rich  source  of chemical novelty  and  bioactivity with many promising new 
bioactive compounds being discovered from each year.  This project is focused on using a genomics guided approach for 
the  discovery  of  novel  bioactives  from  bacteria  that  have been cultured from marine sponges. A  total  over  1,400  marine sponge  derived  bacteria,  have 
previously been screened for bioactivity to detect antibiotic activity against a range of model and pathogenic bacteria and fungi; with  up to  50%  of these  isolates  being found to  be 
active in these initial screens.  However in liquid culture much of this initial bioactivity is lost, with typically <10% of initial ‘hits’ suitable for bioactive product purification. Our hypothesis is that a genomics guided approach will allow us to access the  cryptic bioactivity that  is present  in these bacteria. 20 marine‐sponge derived bacteria will be selected for genomic analysis based on initial bioactivity.  

These will include Streptomyces sp., Micromonospora sp., Pseudovibrio sp., and Pseudoalteromonas sp. Thus we will employ genomic analysesto discover the genetic basisfor bioactivity
in  carefully  selected  and  phylogenetically  diverse  marine bacteria;  express  cryptic  and  novel  metabolic  pathways  in heterologous  hosts;  discover  and  chemically  characterise 
novel  bioactive  molecules,  and;  discover  new  previously inaccessible antibiotic compounds.  

Description of facilities and research environment

The Dobson group is based in the Environmental Research Institute (http://eri.ucc.ie) at UCC which was established as an  inter‐disciplinary research  institute  in  2000 to  facilitate 
and  support  environmental,  marine  and  energy  based research at UCC.  The Institute brings together expertise  in the biological, chemical and environmental sciences as well as environmental  engineering,  energy  and  environmental law.   The  Institute  currently  has  a  total  of  64  Principal Investigators,  70  non‐tenured  researchers  and  65 postgraduate students  involved  in research activities  in the Environment,  Marine  and  Energy  areas  (over  40%  of researchers are from outside of Ireland). From 2006‐2010 ERI researchers  have published  699  peer‐reviewed  research papers  and  a  total  of  138  PhD  and  MSc  students  have graduated under the supervision of ERI PIs.  In this same time period recurrent research  income  from  both  national  and international  funding  agencies  has  totalled  €37  M.   An independent  assessment  of  research  quality  at  University 
College Cork  in  2009  awarded the  Institute  a top research rating  (Level  5)  finding  that  “the  Institute  had  overall excellent  performance  with  evidence  of  world‐class contributions” and “a high level of inter‐disciplinary research within and across the groups”.  In 2010 the ERI secured €16 M from the  Irish Government to  extend the  Institute  and create  a  new  research  building  dedicated  to  marine  and energy  research.  This  new  building  will  integrate  the Hydraulics  and  Maritime  Research  Centre, the  Coastal  and Marine  Resources  Centre  together  with  members  of  the Sustainable  Energy  Research  Group  and,  when  completed, will provide space for 135 additional researchers including 67 new  PhD  and  researcher  spaces.    The  Dobson  group  is currently involved in three EU funded research projects in the Marine Biotechnology area namely, MicroB3, Macumba and PharmaSea.


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