Prokaryotes: The biotechnologists of the sea.
By: Noris Isabel Córdoba Mena
Is certainly true that the world is colonized by prokaryotes. These organisms inhabit almost every ecosystem and substrate on Earth. Prokaryotes are also very important in the biogeochemical cycles, participate in the decomposition process, and help to the sustainability of the planet due to their diversity, their capacity of adaptation and their different metabolism strategies. Marine ecosystems also host a variety of prokaryotic species with different adaptations that allow them to survive to challenging conditions in the oceans therefore, the understanding of prokaryotic communities in marine ecosystems can provide a source of information that will help to create innovative biotechnological tools in order to effectively treat contamination, support the industry, and solve contemporaneous environmental problems.
Historically, the studies around prokaryotes in marine waters have focused on the sanitary effect of their presence especially in waters used for services like recreation and aquaculture That is not a surprise as prokaryotic organisms are commonly linked just to bacteria that threaten the health of other organisms, and change water quality, due to their metabolic process like organic matter decomposition. However, in recent times the view of this organisms have changed focusing more on the biotechnological applications of prokaryotes from marine ecosystems.
Biotechnology on marine waters is strongly focused on cyanobacteria, especially on the ones inhabiting non-usual ecosystems such as hydrothermal vents, due to their variety and their different metabolic processes (Abed et al. 2008). This does not mean that the exploitation of prokaryotes is limited to cyanobacteria that inhabit in extreme conditions but, is it the usual way to find organism with biotechnological potential. Despite of this, in 2019 during the COLACMAR XVIII congress, interesting applications of other group of typical prokaryotes from the sea used in biotechnology: the bacteria, were presented.
Despite the challenges involved in the use of marine bacteria in biotechnological processes due to the difficulties associated with their culture at laboratory and the generation of marine consortiums in vitro conditions (Joint et al. 2010), today progress has been made in in the use of bacteria thanks to advances in genetic engineering techniques (Kim, 2019), which was evidenced in some papers presented at the COLACMAR XVIII congress where the potential of bacteria in this area was visualized.
One of the works presented in this congress showed how cultures from the bacteria genus Shewanella, isolated from Hymeniacidon heliophila a sponge species from Brazil, are capable to degrade Trichlorophenol, a pollutant connected with leukaemia and liver cancer in animals exposed to it (Morales et al. 2019). Additionally, Naveira showed in his work how tropical consortia of bacteria from sediments linked to the mangrove in tropical zones have the capacity to resist Bisphenol A. Therefore, these consortia have the potential to be used in the future to bioremediate ecosystems contaminated with this substance (Naveira et al. 019).
As previously discussed, marine prokaryotes can develop adaptation tools to repair contaminated habitats due to their high ability to quickly familiarize with the changes in their environment, that are usually expressed by their production of proteins, enzymes, and the features of their colonial organization (Brooks et al. 2011), making them the biggest biotechnologist of the sea.
Finally, it is of high importance to study the behaviour and ecology of prokaryotes in marine systems in order to understand in a better way, how their adaptations to the actual challenges -like climate change- can be used in an effective way. Recognizing marine prokaryotes strategies will serve as a baseline to develop biotechnological solutions to solve the current environmental challenges that we have as humanity, and to keep the balance with all the living things. The oceans are full of prokaryotic organisms that are showing us how to adapt, so it is time to work harder to understand the whole ecology and metabolism of this biotechnologists.
Abed, R. M., Dobretsov, S., & Sudesh, K. (2009). Applications of cyanobacteria in biotechnology. Journal of applied microbiology, 106(1), 1-12.
Brooks, A. N., Turkarslan, S., Beer, K. D., Yin Lo, F., & Baliga, N. S. (2011). Adaptation of cells to new environments. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Systems Biology and Medicine, 3(5), 544-561.
Joint, I., Mühling, M., & Querellou, J. (2010). Culturing marine bacteria–an essential prerequisite for biodiscovery. Microbial biotechnology, 3(5), 564-575.
Kim SK. (2019) Marine Microorganism Resources and Biotechnology. In: Essentials of Marine Biotechnology. Springer, Cham
Moraes, Rozas y Custódio, (2019), Bacteria degrading trichlorophenol isolated from sponge Hymeniacidon heliophile (Sao Sabatio, sp). Libro de Resumenes COLACMAR XVIII, 627.
Naveira, C., Morais J., , Silva dos Santos F., , Krepsky N., y Almeida R. (2019). Evaluation of BPA resisteance by tropical bacterial consortia: A potential tool for marine bioremediation. Libro de Resumenes COLACMAR XVIII, 640.