Outreach
Bringing the Ocean to Society
28 Jul 2020
CESAM researchers participate in the discovery of 14 new species of marine fungi
The EurOcean Member's work can potentially lead to new pharmaceuticals.

Not one, not two. There were 14 new species and one genus of marine fungi discovered by a team where researchers from the EurOcean's Member CESAM stood out. At the moment, they are being analyzed for enzymatic, antibacterial, antioxidant and antitumour potential. Preliminary results show that some of these species are potential sources of antibiotics, capable of inhibiting the growth of clinical pathogenic bacteria, including multi-resistant bacteria.

The works are in the scope of Micael Gonçalves' doctorate thesis, entitled “Fungos marinhos: diversidade e potencial biotecnológico” ("Marine fungi: diversity and biotechnological potential" in Portuguese), under the supervision of Artur Alves, professor of UA’s Department of Biology (DBio) and researcher of the Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM), and Ana Cristina Esteves, professor of the Faculty of Dentistry of the Catholic University of Portugal, researcher of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Health Research.

In a context where studies on marine fungi are rare, two fundamental objectives motivate all the activity taking place in the MicroLab and FunPlantLab laboratories, of DBio and CESAM: to uncover the hidden biodiversity related to marine fungi in Portugal and to evaluate their potential in the production of relevant bioactive compounds.

Recently the group described a new genus and 14 new species of marine fungi for science, found along the Portuguese coast. Another six new species will be described later this year.

A total of 1312 isolated specimens were collected from various substrates/hosts (water, macroalgae, sponges, driftwood and wood that was submerged within the project) along the Portuguese coast and the Aveiro lagoon. Different results in enzymatic and antibacterial activity were also observed when fungi develop in the presence or absence of salt. Based on these preliminary results, eight fungi were selected for fermentation and raw extracts. At this time, their antibacterial to antioxidant activity is being tested.

t is also intended, in the future, to identify secondary metabolites associated with the different biological activities detected in these eight selected species and to sequence the genomes of the species with the most promising characteristics in order to identify biosynthetic genes.

Marine habitats represent 70% of the planet's surface and remain biologically unexplored. This is especially evident when considering microbial life in these environments, especially fungi. Fungi are a major component in terrestrial and aquatic environments, representing a substantial proportion of our planet's microbial diversity.

These studies have already been published in several international journals:

https://doi.org/10.1099/ijsem.0.003535

https://doi.org/10.1080/00275514.2019.1677448

https://doi.org/10.3897/mycokeys.60.37931

https://doi.org/10.1099/ijsem.0.003680

https://doi.org/10.5943/mycosphere/10/1/11

- Page 412 – 413: https://doi.org/10.3767/persoonia.2019.43.06

- Page 424 – 425: https://doi.org/10.3767/persoonia.2020.44.11

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