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Did you know that some sponges consist to over 40% of bacteria? And did you know that more than 5000 new chemical substances (“natural products”) have been isolated from sponges during the last three decades, many of which have highly interesting potential as agents against human diseases such as cancer, malaria and microbial infections? My research focuses on the possible link between the bacteria and the chemistry in sponges. In several cases, there is circumstantial evidence that the alleged “sponge metabolites” are in fact of microbial origin, produced by bacteria living in the sponge tissue. If so, this may help to facilitate large-scale production of the compounds of interest, which is indispensable for their development to pharmaceuticals. By cultivation of the sponge bacteria, or alternatively, by expression of their biosynthesis genes in other organisms, their metabolites may be producible in large quantities and under controllable conditions. I investigate chemical interactions between sponges and their associated bacteria in order to determine possible symbiotic relationships in regard to natural product biosynthesis and I am developing a new technique to make sponge bacteria amenable for laboratory cultivation. I am also interested in activated chemical defenses in sponges. This interest is some sort of “relict” from my PhD time. Activated defenses are quite common in vascular plants, algae and phytoplankton, but so far there are very few known examples in sessile marine invertebrates.
Thoms, C.; Ebel, R.; Proksch, P. (2006) Activated chemical defense in sponges of the genus Aplysina revisited. Journal of Chemical Ecology: 32 (1): 97-123.
Thoms, C.; Ebel, R.; Proksch, P. (2006) Sequestration and possible role of dietary alkaloids in the sponge-feeding mollusk Tylodina perversa. In: G. Cimino und M. Gavagnin (Eds.) Marine Molecular Biotechnology: Molluscs. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg. pp. 261-275.
Thoms, C. and Schupp, P. Biotechnological potential of sponges and their associated bacteria as producers of new pharmaceuticals (Part II). Journal of International Biotechnology Law 2 (6): 257-264.
Thoms, C. and Schupp, P. Biotechnological potential of sponges and their associated bacteria as producers of new pharmaceuticals (Part I). Journal of International Biotechnology Law 2 (5): 217-220.
Thoms, C.; Wolff, M.; Padmakumar, K.; Ebel, R.; Proksch, P. (2004) Chemical defense of Mediterranean sponges Aplysina cavernicola and Aplysina aerophoba. Zeitschrift für Naturforschung - Journal of Biosciences 59c (1/2): 113-122.
Thoms, C.; Ebel, R.; Hentschel, U.; Proksch, P. (2003b) Sequestration of dietary alkaloids by the spongivorous marine mollusc Tylodina perversa. Zeitschrift für Naturforschung - Journal of Biosciences 58c:426-432.
Thoms, C.; Horn, M.; Wagner, M.; Hentschel, U.; Proksch, P. (2003) Monitoring microbial diversity and natural product profiles of the sponge Aplysina cavernicola following transplantation. Marine Biology 142 (4): 685-692.
Dr. Carsten Thoms
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