Affiliation: Instituto de Microbiologia Paulo de Goes - Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Av. Carlos Chagas Filho, 373, Cidade Universitaria, 21941-590, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
As sessile and filter-feeding metazoans, marine sponges represent an ecologically important and highly diverse component of marine benthic communities throughout the world. It has been suggested that marine sponges are hosts to many microorganisms which can constitute up to 40-60% of its biomass. Recently, sponges have attracted a high interest from scientific community because two important factors. First there is the fact that sponges have a wide range of associated bacteria; and, second, they are a rich source of bioactive substances. Since 1950, a number of bioactive substances with various pharmacological functions have been isolated from marine sponges. However, many of these substances were subsequently shown to be actually synthesized by sponge-associated bacteria. Bacteria associated with marine sponges constitute an interesting source of novel bioactive compounds with biotechnological potential such as antimicrobial substances, enzymes and surfactants. In addition, these bacteria may be biofilm forming and can act as bioindicators in bioremediation processes of environmental pollution caused by oil and heavy metals. This review focuses on the biotechnological applications of these microorganisms.