Isolation and phylogenetic analysis of bacteria with antimicrobial activities from the Mediterranean sponges Aplysina aerophoba and Aplysina cavernicola


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The aim of this study was to isolate bacteria with antimicrobial activities from the marine sponges Aplysina aerophoba and Aplysina cavernicola. The obtained 27 isolates could be subdivided into eight phylogenetically different clusters based on comparative sequence analysis of their 16S rDNA genes. The sponge isolates were affiliated with the low (Bacillus) and high G+C Gram-positive bacteria (Arthobacter, Micrococcus), as well as the α-Proteobacteria (unknown isolate) and γ-Proteobacteria (Vibrio, Pseudoalteromonas). One novel Bacillus species was identified and two species were closely related to previously uncharacterized strains. Isolates with antimicrobial activity were numerically most abundant in the genera Pseudoalteromonas and the α-Proteobacteria. The sponge isolates show antimicrobial activities against Gram-positive and Gram-negative reference strains but not against the fungus Candida albicans. A general pattern was observed in that Gram-positive bacteria inhibited Gram-positive strains while Gram-negative bacteria inhibited Gram-negative isolates. Antimicrobial activities were also found against clinical isolates, i.e. multi-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis strains isolated from hospital patients. The high recovery of strains with antimicrobial activity suggests that marine sponges represent an ecological niche which harbors a hitherto largely uncharacterized microbial diversity and, concomitantly, a yet untapped metabolic potential.