Antimicrobial activity of extracts of Caribbean gorgonian corals

Jensen, PR, Harvell CD, Wirtz K, Fenical W.  1996.  Antimicrobial activity of extracts of Caribbean gorgonian corals. Marine Biology. 125:411-419.

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bacteria, barnacle, chemical defenses, inhibition, leptogorgia-virgulata, marine, natural-products, octocorals, pseudopterogorgia, settlement, structural defenses


Extracts of 39 species of Caribbean gorgonians were tested for antimicrobial activity against 15 strains of marine bacteria. The bacteria consisted of three opportunistic pathogens, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Leucothrix mucor, and Aerococcus viridans, and 12 strains isolated from either healthy or decayed gorgonians. Overall, only 15% (79 out of 544) of the tests resulted in antibacterial activity with 33% (13 out of 39) of the gorgonians inhibiting only one bacterial strain and 23% (9 out of 39) showing no activity. The extracts of four Pseudopterogorgia species showed relatively high levels of activity, inhibiting 43 to 86% of the bacterial strains. The potency of the active Pseudopterogorgia species was variable, however, and three additional Pseudopterogorgia species were inactive against all bacterial strains. With the exception of one sensitive strain, Vibrio species were resistant to gorgonian metabolites. Our results indicate that organic extracts of most Caribbean gorgonians do not possess potent, broad-spectrum antibacterial activity inhibitory to the growth of opportunistic marine pathogens and bacteria associated with healthy and decayed gorgonian surfaces. These findings suggest that the inhibition of bacterial growth is not the primary ecological function of gorgonian secondary metabolites and that bacteria may not be important selective agents in the evolution of gorgonian secondary chemistry.