Onderwerp scriptie

Tapping into the unexplored diversity of genes involved in biosynthesis of antimicrobial compounds from sponge-associated microbes

Marine sponges are the source of various types of bioactive compounds many of which are important for medicinal and pharmaceutical purposes. Discovery of novel antibiotics is one of the major interests in marine sponge research because of an increasing number of infections by antibiotic-resistant bacteria and declining availability of new products on the market. These biochemicals, however, are produced in minute quantities by marine sponges, which creates difficulties in optimising the drug-producing potential of sponges due to sustainability issues. Therefore the focus has been shifted to sponge-associated microbes as they are suspected to be responsible for the production of the majority of bioactive compounds within their host. Biosynthesis of secondary metabolites including antimicrobial compounds from sponge-associated microbes is often encoded by large gene clusters. For the exploitation of novel antimicrobial compounds from marine sponges, it is important not only to isolate the microbial-producer but also to have comprehensive understanding of gene clusters involved in the biosynthesis

Aim and Research Approaches

This project aims to contribute to fundamental and applied aspects in the field of sponge microbiology. Fundamental aspects of this project will be focused on the investigation of microbial diversity and abundance in marine sponges, particularly a comparison between shallow and deep sea habitats. From the more applied point of view, this research aims to unravel diversity of gene clusters responsible for the production of antimicrobial compounds in sponge-associated microbes. Through isolation of the responsible microbes or through a combination of cultivation-independent and cultivation-dependent methods, this project is expected to lead to the availability of novel antimicrobial compounds, which may result to the development of novel antibiotics from marine sponges.

Techniques and Methods

  • cultivation of sponge-derived microorganisms
  • antimicrobial assays
  • Genome sequencing
  • microbial diversity analysis
  • metagenomic mining


This project is mainly designed for an MSc thesis (6 months), yet it is possible to have a shorter term project. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

Project for MSc students with interest in Marine Microbiology & Biology


Anak Agung Gede Indraningrat (anak1.indraningrat@wur.nl)

and Detmer Sipkema (detmer.sipkema@wur.nl)