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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Sustainable production of bioactive compounds from sponges: primmorphs as bioreactors.

Sponges [phylum Porifera] are a rich source for the isolation of biologically active and pharmacologically valuable compounds with a high potential to become effective drugs for therapeutic use. However, until now, only one compound has been introduced into clinics because of the limited amounts of starting material available for extraction. To overcome this serious problem in line with the rules for a sustainable use of marine resources, the following routes can be pursued; first, chemical synthesis, second, cultivation of sponges in the sea (mariculture), third, growth of sponge specimens in a bioreactor, and fourth, cultivation of sponge cells in vitro in a bioreactor. The main efforts to follow the latter strategy have been undertaken with the marine sponge Suberites domuncula. This species produces compounds that affect neuronal cells, such as quinolinic acid, a well-known neurotoxin, and phospholipids. A sponge cell culture was established after finding that single sponge cells require cell-cell contact in order to retain their telomerase activity, one prerequisite for continuous cell proliferation. The sponge cell culture system, the primmorphs, comprises proliferating cells that have the potency to differentiate. While improving the medium it was found that, besides growth factors, certain ions (e.g. silicate and iron) are essential. In the presence of silicate several genes required for the formation of the extracellular matrix are expressed (silicatein, collagen and myotrophin). Fe3+ is essential for the synthesis of the spicules, and causes an increased expression of the ferritin-, septin- and scavenger receptor genes. Furthermore, high water current is required for growth and canal formation in the primmorphs. The primmorph system has already been successfully used for the production of pharmacologically useful, bioactive compounds, such as avarol or (2'-5')oligoadenylates. Future strategies to improve the sponge cell culture are discussed; these include the elucidation of those genes which control the proliferation phase and the morphogenesis phase, two developmental phases which the cells in primmorphs undergo. In addition, immortalization of sponge cells by transfection with genomic DNA appears to be a promising way, since recent studies underscore the applicability of this technique for sponges.[1]


  1. Sustainable production of bioactive compounds from sponges: primmorphs as bioreactors. Schröder, H.C., Brümmer, F., Fattorusso, E., Aiello, A., Menna, M., de Rosa, S., Batel, R., Müller, W.E. Prog. Mol. Subcell. Biol. (2003) [Pubmed]
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