Marine Sponge Symbiosis

Marine invertebrates, such as sponges, corals, tunicates and sea slugs, contain an enormous variety of secondary metabolites with potential pharmaceutical applications.

Our research focusses mostly on sponges because:

  • sponges contain by far the most diverse and dense populations of microbes and the widest variety of bioactive molecules in the marine environment.
  • sponges gardens represent important biodiversity hotspot in the marine environment.
  • sponges are considered as the oldest multicellular organisms still present on Earth and may present the oldest examples of symbiosis between multicellular organisms and microorganisms.

The high microbial load of many sponges and corals and the discovery of more than 7,000 bioactive metabolites from sponges alone since the 1960s logically led to the hypothesis that many secondary metabolites encountered in marine invertebrates are actually produced by their microbial symbionts.

The main aims of our research are to:

  • unravel the symbiotic relationships between sponge holobiont.
  • develop strategies to unlock the pharmaceutical potential of sponge-associated microorganisms.

We fuse modern omics technologies with innovative cultivation strategies to isolate sponge-associated microbes, assess their functional role and unlock their secondary metabolites.

Ongoing PhD & postdoc projects in marine sponge symbiosis