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      Microbial Communities and Bioactive Compounds in Marine Sponges of the Family Irciniidae—A Review

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          Marine sponges harbour complex microbial communities of ecological and biotechnological importance. Here, we propose the application of the widespread sponge family Irciniidae as an appropriate model in microbiology and biochemistry research. Half a gram of one Irciniidae specimen hosts hundreds of bacterial species—the vast majority of which are difficult to cultivate—and dozens of fungal and archaeal species. The structure of these symbiont assemblages is shaped by the sponge host and is highly stable over space and time. Two types of quorum-sensing molecules have been detected in these animals, hinting at microbe-microbe and host-microbe signalling being important processes governing the dynamics of the Irciniidae holobiont. Irciniids are vulnerable to disease outbreaks, and concerns have emerged about their conservation in a changing climate. They are nevertheless amenable to mariculture and laboratory maintenance, being attractive targets for metabolite harvesting and experimental biology endeavours. Several bioactive terpenoids and polyketides have been retrieved from Irciniidae sponges, but the actual producer (host or symbiont) of these compounds has rarely been clarified. To tackle this, and further pertinent questions concerning the functioning, resilience and physiology of these organisms, truly multi-layered approaches integrating cutting-edge microbiology, biochemistry, genetics and zoology research are needed.

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          Mesophilic Crenarchaeota: proposal for a third archaeal phylum, the Thaumarchaeota.

          The archaeal domain is currently divided into two major phyla, the Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota. During the past few years, diverse groups of uncultivated mesophilic archaea have been discovered and affiliated with the Crenarchaeota. It was recently recognized that these archaea have a major role in geochemical cycles. Based on the first genome sequence of a crenarchaeote, Cenarchaeum symbiosum, we show that these mesophilic archaea are different from hyperthermophilic Crenarchaeota and branch deeper than was previously assumed. Our results indicate that C. symbiosum and its relatives are not Crenarchaeota, but should be considered as a third archaeal phylum, which we propose to name Thaumarchaeota (from the Greek 'thaumas', meaning wonder).
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            Polyketide biosynthesis: a millennium review.

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              Nitrogenase gene diversity and microbial community structure: a cross-system comparison.

              Biological nitrogen fixation is an important source of fixed nitrogen for the biosphere. Microorganisms catalyse biological nitrogen fixation with the enzyme nitrogenase, which has been highly conserved through evolution. Cloning and sequencing of one of the nitrogenase structural genes, nifH, has provided a large, rapidly expanding database of sequences from diverse terrestrial and aquatic environments. Comparison of nifH phylogenies to ribosomal RNA phylogenies from cultivated microorganisms shows little conclusive evidence of lateral gene transfer. Sequence diversity far outstrips representation by cultivated representatives. The phylogeny of nitrogenase includes branches that represent phylotypic groupings based on ribosomal RNA phylogeny, but also includes paralogous clades including the alternative, non-molybdenum, non-vanadium containing nitrogenases. Only a few alternative or archaeal nitrogenase sequences have as yet been obtained from the environment. Extensive analysis of the distribution of nifH phylotypes among habitats indicates that there are characteristic patterns of nitrogen fixing microorganisms in termite guts, sediment and soil environments, estuaries and salt marshes, and oligotrophic oceans. The distribution of nitrogen-fixing microorganisms, although not entirely dictated by the nitrogen availability in the environment, is non-random and can be predicted on the basis of habitat characteristics. The ability to assay for gene expression and investigate genome arrangements provides the promise of new tools for interrogating natural populations of diazotrophs. The broad analysis of nitrogenase genes provides a basis for developing molecular assays and bioinformatics approaches for the study of nitrogen fixation in the environment.

                Author and article information

                Role: External Editor
                Mar Drugs
                Mar Drugs
                Marine Drugs
                30 September 2014
                October 2014
                : 12
                : 10
                : 5089-5122
                Microbial Ecology and Evolution Research Group, Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMar), University of Algarve (UAlg), Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal; E-Mail: cristianehardoim@
                Author notes
                [* ]Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: rscosta@ ; Tel.: +351-289-800-051; Fax: +351-289-800-069.
                © 2014 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (



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