Antimicrobial activities of extracts from tropical Atlantic marine plants against marine pathogens and saprophytes

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Studies investigating disease resistance in marine plants have indicated that secondary metabolites may have important defensive functions against harmful marine microorganisms. The goal of this study was to systematically screen extracts from marine plants for antimicrobial effects against marine pathogens and saprophytes. Lipophilic and hydrophilic extracts from species of 49 marine algae and 3 seagrasses collected in the tropical Atlantic were screened for antimicrobial activity against five ecologically relevant marine microorganisms from three separate kingdoms. These assay microbes consisted of the pathogenic fungus Lindra thalassiae, the saprophytic fungus Dendryphiella salina, the saprophytic stramenopiles, Halophytophthora spinosa and Schizochytrium aggregatum, and the pathogenic bacterium Pseudoaltermonas bacteriolytica. Overall, 90% of all species surveyed yielded extracts that were active against one or more, and 77% yielded extracts that were active against two or more assay microorganisms. Broad-spectrum activity against three or four assay microorganisms was observed in the extracts from 48 and 27% of all species, respectively. The green algae Halimeda copiosa and Penicillus capitatus (Chlorophyta) were the only species to yield extracts active against all assay microorganisms. Among all assay microorganisms, both fungi were the most resistant to the extracts tested, with less than 21% of all extracts inhibiting the growth of either L. thalassiae or D. salina. In contrast, over half of all lipophylic extracts were active against the stramenopiles H. spinosa and S. aggregatum, and the bacterium P. bacteriolytica. Growth sensitivity to hydrophilic extracts varied considerably between individual assay microorganisms. While 48% of all hydrophilic extracts were active against H. spinosa, 27% were active against P. bacteriolytica, and only 14% were active against S. aggregatum. Overall, more lipophilic extracts inhibited microbial growth than hydrophilic extracts. The variability observed in the antimicrobial effects of individual extracts against each assay microorganism reflects the importance of choosing appropriate test microbes in assays from which ecologically relevant information is sought. Results from this survey demonstrate that antimicrobial activities are prevalent among extracts from marine algae and seagrasses, suggesting that antimicrobial chemical defenses are widespread among marine plants.

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