Deep-sea hydrothermal vents: potential hot spots for natural products discovery?

Research paper by Christopher C CC Thornburg, T Mark TM Zabriskie, Kerry L KL McPhail

Indexed on: 27 Jan '10Published on: 27 Jan '10Published in: Journal of Natural Products


Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are among the most extreme and dynamic environments on Earth. However, islands of highly dense and biologically diverse communities exist in the immediate vicinity of hydrothermal vent flows, in stark contrast to the surrounding bare seafloor. These communities comprise organisms with distinct metabolisms based on chemosynthesis and growth rates comparable to those from shallow water tropical environments, which have been rich sources of biologically active natural products. The geological setting and geochemical nature of deep-sea vents that impact the biogeography of vent organisms, chemosynthesis, and the known biological and metabolic diversity of Eukarya, Bacteria, and Archaea, including the handful of natural products isolated to date from deep-sea vent organisms, are considered here in an assessment of deep-sea hydrothermal vents as potential hot spots for natural products investigations. Of critical importance too are the logistics of collecting deep vent organisms, opportunities for re-collection considering the stability and longevity of vent sites, and the ability to culture natural product-producing deep vent organisms in the laboratory. New cost-effective technologies in deep-sea research and more advanced molecular techniques aimed at screening a more inclusive genetic assembly are poised to accelerate natural product discoveries from these microbial diversity hot spots.