The Bristol Sponge Microbiome Collection: A unique repository of deep-sea microorganisms and associated natural products

Sam Williams, Henry L Stennett, Catherine Back, Kavita Tiwari, Jorge Ojeda Gomez, Martin R Challand, Katharine Hendry, James Spencer, Angela Essex-Lopresti, Chris L Willis, Paul Curnow*, Paul R Race*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
100 Downloads (Pure)


The deep ocean is the largest habitat for life on Earth, though the microorganisms that occupy this unique environmental niche remain largely unexplored. Due to the significant logistical and operational challenges associated with accessing the deep ocean, bioprospecting programmes that seek to generate novel products from marine organisms have to date focused predominantly on samples recovered from shallow seas. For this reason, the deep ocean remains a largely untapped resource of novel microbiological life and associated natural products. Here we report the establishment of the Bristol Sponge Microbiome Collection (BISECT), a unique repository of deep-sea microorganisms and associated metabolites isolated from the microbiota of marine sponges, recovered from previously unsurveyed regions of the mid Atlantic Ocean, at depths of 0.5 – 3 km. An integrated biodiscovery pipeline comprising molecular, genetic, bioinformatic and analytical tools is also described, which is being applied to interrogate this collection. The potential of this approach is illustrated using data reporting our initial efforts to identify antimicrobial natural product lead compounds. Prospects for the use of BISECT for addressing allied pharmaceutical needs, along with mechanisms of access to the collection, are also discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number509
Number of pages189
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2020

Structured keywords

  • BrisSynBio
  • Bristol BioDesign Institute


  • Natural products
  • microbiology
  • antibiotics
  • extremophiles
  • bioprospecting
  • actinomycetes


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