In search of alternative antibiotic drugs: Quorum-quenching activity in sponges and their bacterial isolates

Kumar Saurav, Rinat Bar-Shalom, Markus Haber, Ilia Burgsdorf, Giorgia Oliviero, Valeria Costantino, David Morgenstern, Laura Steindler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Owing to the extensive development of drug resistance in pathogens against the available antibiotic arsenal, antimicrobial resistance is now an emerging major threat to public healthcare. Anti-virulence drugs are a new type of therapeutic agent aiming at virulence factors rather than killing the pathogen, thus providing less selective pressure for evolution of resistance. One promising example of this therapeutic concept targets bacterial quorum sensing (QS), because QS controls many virulence factors responsible for bacterial infections. Marine sponges and their associated bacteria are considered a still untapped source for unique chemical leads with a wide range of biological activities. In the present study, we screened extracts of 14 sponge species collected from the Red and Mediterranean Sea for their quorum-quenching (QQ) potential. Half of the species showed QQ activity in at least 2 out of 3 replicates. Six out of the 14 species were selected for bacteria isolation, to test for QQ activity also in isolates, which, once cultured, represent an unlimited source of compounds. We show that ~20% of the isolates showed QQ activity based on a Chromobacterium violaceum CV026 screen, and that the presence or absence of QQ activity in a sponge extract did not correlate with the abundance of isolates with the same activity from the same sponge species. This can be explained by the unknown source of QQ compounds in sponge-holobionts (host or symbionts), and further by the possible non-symbiotic nature of bacteria isolated from sponges. The potential symbiotic nature of the isolates showing QQ activity was tested according to the distribution and abundance of taxonomically close bacterial Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) in a dataset including 97 sponge species and 178 environmental samples (i.e., seawater, freshwater, and marine sediments). Most isolates were found not to be enriched in sponges and may simply have been trapped in the filtration channels of the sponge at the time of collection. Our results highlight potential for QQ-bioactive lead molecules for anti-virulence therapy both from sponges and the bacteria isolated thereof, independently on the symbiotic nature of the latter.

Original languageEnglish
Article number416
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberAPR
StatePublished - 5 Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Saurav, Bar-Shalom, Haber, Burgsdorf, Oliviero, Costantino, Morgenstern and Steindler.


  • Anti-virulence
  • Biofilm inhibition
  • Porifera
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Pyocyanin
  • Quorum sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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