TASCMAR newsletter - 2017. 3
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Welcome to TASCMAR!

TASCMAR is an international collaborative research project funded under the EU's Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation. Through a collaboration between 13 academic and commercial project partners in eight countries, TASCMAR seeks to discover novel marine-derived biomolecules with industrial applications, looking to the ocean's under explored mesophotic zone. To find out more about the project and its consortium: http://www.tascmar.eu

TASCMAR SESSION ON MESOPHOTIC ECOSYSTEMS @ 52ND EUROPEAN MARINE BIOLOGY SYMPOSIUM - A SUCCESS!

The European Marine Biology Symposium (EMBS) has been hosted in over 20 different countries and attracts not only marine scientists throughout Europe but also all over the globe.  This year, the five-day conference (25-29 September) was hosted in Portorož, on the breath-taking Adriatic coast of Slovenia, under the auspices of the National Institute of Biology of Slovenia. 
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During the five-day symposium, a special session was organized by the European Commission funded research project TASCMAR, entitled mesophotic ecosystems: mysteries and research challenges. The session was one of six main pillars of the conference, also including marine symbiosis,
imaging in marine biology, benthic-pelagic coupling, marine metagenomics and a general session. Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems (MCEs), which comprise the light-dependent communities of corals and other organisms found at depths between 30 to ~ 150 m, are a key source of innovation in the TASCMAR project. TASCMAR investigates the chemical and biological diversity of these ecosystems, focussing on how this rich diversity can be sustainably applied for concrete socio-economic benefits, while fully respecting the marine environment. MCEs also represent a hot topic in marine science today, their investigation now made possible thanks to recent technological advances.

ORAL PRESETATIONS @ EMBS 52 - TASCMAR SESSION ON MESOPHOTIC ECOSYSTEMS: MYSTERIES AND RESEARCH CHALLENGES

OCTOCORALS: KEY PLAYERS IN MESOPHOTIC REEFS (EILAT, NORTHERN RED SEA)
 
Yehuda Benayahu1, Erez Shoham1, Ronen Liberman1, Catherine S. McFadden2, Leen P. van Ofwegen3, Bastian Reijnen3

1School of Zoology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978 Israel
2Department of Biology, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA 91711-5990, USA
3Department of Marine Zoology, Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, P.O. Box 9517, 2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands
 
email: yehudab@tauex.tau.ac.

Octocorals are common throughout the Indo-Pacific reefs and play an important role in their ecology. They are well recognized by their polyps featuring eight pinnate tentacles and internal skeleton comprised of a variety of microscopic calcite-made sclerites.  Studies have revealed their high diversity on numerous shallow reefs, comprising hundreds of species, including many new ones. Yet, octocorals of many reefs remained to be described in order to appreciate their diversity, phylogeny and biological function. The mesophotic coral-reef ecosystem (MCE) has been defined as comprising the light-dependent communities (30 to >150 m) in tropical and subtropical regions. Until the past decade most octocoral surveys have been restricted to the upper ~30 m. Remotely-operated vehicles (ROV) and technical diving have now facilitated the investigation of MCEs. Yet, most of mesophotic octocoral studies are lagging behind their stony corals counterparts, being limited to photography and thus do not allow examining their actual diversity. The northern Red Sea shallow reefs, situated at the most northern boundary of global coral-reef distribution, have been quite extensively studied, revealing vast octocoral richness. The scarce data available on MCE octocorals there intrigued us to conduct within TASCMAR project ROV surveys on MCE octocorals. So far the results revealed diverse octocoral communities also inhabited by new species to science and new zoogeographical records, as well as their depth distribution and abundance. The findings highlight the possibility that MCEs may host octocorals also found below the deepest fringes of these MCEs; and that specifically, the deep-water octocorals may populate the zone alongside those of the lower MCEs, contributing to the high biodiversity there. In addition, the findings enable us to portray the depth distribution of both symbiotic (zooxanthellate) and asymbiotic octocorals. The evidence suggests that MCEs constitute unique benthic species assemblages, octocorals being the most prominent one, far beyond what has been envisioned.
Professor Yehuda Benayahu presenting groundbreaking research on mesophotic octocorals, as well as giving a general presentation of the TASCMAR project
BEYOND SCUBA LIMIT: THE CHALLENGE OF THE COASTAL ANIMAL FORESTS OF THE MESOPHOTIC
 
Sergio Rossi1,2 , Martina Coppari 3, Núria Viladrich2, Andrea Gori 4
1 DiSTeBA, Università del Salento, Lecce, Italy
2 ICTA, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallés, Spain
3 DISTAV, Università degli Studi di Genova, Genoa, Italy
4 Departament d’Ecologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
 
sergio.rossi@uab.cat

Beyond the “common” SCUBA diving depth limit (25-35 meters depth), a huge benthic community extends having its own distribution, trophic ecology and biodiversity patterns. New technologies (for SCUBA divers and the introduction of ROVs for scientific purposes) applied to study the habitats between 30 and 150 meters depth, was crucial to have an opportunity to reach species and communities only barely approached in the past. In this area, commonly called “twilight zone”, light is not the main driver for the biomass production, being suspension feeders the dominant organisms, and the heterotrophy the main trophic strategy. The animal forests dwelling in mesophotic ecosystems (i.e., communities composed of engineering species such as sponges, scleractinians, gorgonians, bryozoans, etc.) generate complex three-dimensional bioconstructions that enhance the diversity and abundance of the associated fauna. In these communities, the recent scientific approach raised several ecological questions to be answered, and claim for the development of new tools for the management and conservation of coastal areas. For example, what is the degree of connectivity between shallow stressed areas and deeper populations? Can the twilight reefs contribute to the recovery of damaged shallow coral reefs? What is the trophic ecology of the ecosystem engineering species below certain depths? How can we quantify the role of light in the energy budget of mixotrophic species? What is the role as carbon sinks of these sea forests? How will Global Change affect the organisms living in the twilight zone? Will the conservation of coastal areas change with the inclusion of these systems in new and existing MPAs? These and more questions will be addressed in this presentation, in a overview on the current knowledge about some mesophotic species and communities. The study of mesophotic ecosystems is a great opportunity for naturalists to establish new patterns in coastal ecosystems functioning: new discoveries and challenges are waiting for an answer.
Dr Sergio Rossi gave a keynote speech, as an invited guest of TASCMAR
CULTIVATION OF MARINE ORGANISMS AS A TOOL FOR SUSTAINABLE ECOSYSTEM REHABILITAION AND DRUG DISCOVERY

Suchana CHAVANICH1, Voranop VIYAKARN1, Charoen NITITHAMYONG1, Somkiat PIYATIRATITIVORAKUL1, Yehuda BENAYAHU2, and Jamal OUAZZANI3
 
1Reef Biology Research Group, Department of Marine Science, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok,Thailand
2IDepartment of Zoology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Israel
3Institut de Chimie des Substances Nuturelles, ICSN, CNRS, France
 
email: suchana.c@chula.ac.th
 
Chulalongkorn University, as a partner of TASCMAR, has been assigned to explore biodiversity of marine invertebrates and symbionts found in the mesophotic coral-reef ecosystems (MCEs) in the Andaman Sea, Thailand, which had not previously been done before.  More than 8 Phyla were collected in MCEs for investigation of applications in pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and cosmetics.  In addition, our team also tries to develop new strategies to overcome bottlenecks in the environmentally sustainable discovery of applications of novel marine derived biomolecules.  One of the new strategies is the cultivation of marine invertebrates and symbionts.  In this presentation, we will give an example of cultivation of corals using  a sexual propagation technique.  Eggs and sperms of corals were collected for an artificial fertilization.  Then, juveniles were raised to certain sizes before releasing back to the sea for ecosystem rehabilitation.  The cultivation technique, not only can be applied for increasing marine organism populations for conservation purposes, but also can offer  sustainable yields for future use as drug candidates and for solving the supply problem in the initial steps of drug discovery.  In addition, cultivation provides a stable environment, and allows to promote higher yields of target metabolites.
Dr Suchana Apple Chavanich, leading researcher at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand and partner in the TASCMAR project
THE NEEDLE IN THE HAYSTACK: SUSTAINABLE BIOPROSPECTING IN THE TASCMAR PROJECT
 
Ariel, A.1, Prampolini, A.2
1Ecoocean, Kibutz Sdot Yam, 37804, Israel
2T6 Ecosystems srl, Via Genova 30, 00184, Roma
 
email: asaf@ecoocean.com, a.prampolini@t-6.it
 
The mesophotic zone is increasingly recognised by scientists as vital for - and connected physically and biologically to - shallow water habitats.  Mesophotic reefs have the potential to provide refuge for shallow reefs taxa such as coral and sponges, and can be a source of larvae that could contribute to the resiliency of shallow water reefs. However, due to technical challenges, mesophotic ecosystems remain less researched and underexploited compared to the shallow zones, calling for academic and business actors to work together to fill in this gap and explore its great potential for the development of new natural compounds. To this aim, it has to be considered that marine bioprospecting poses great threats to the marine environment and its biodiversity, when done in a non-sustainable manner.
 
The European research project TASCMAR (Tools And Strategies to access original bioactive compounds by Cultivating MARine invertebrates and associated symbionts) aims to fulfil the need for innovative and scientifically sound investigation of mesophotic ecosystems for both academic and market exploitation. In the context of the project impact assessment and in order to reduce the environmental impact of its activities, TASCMAR developed a set of recommendations for the investigation of the mesophotic zone and for the collection of its resources. These recommendations are comprised of selective collection methods, including progressive and sophisticated technologies such as the use of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and technical diving techniques, a selection of standards based on national and international regulations, documentation and monitoring, restriction of sample sizes, innovations in cultivation methods of invertebrates, innovative cultivation of symbiotic microorganisms and highly efficient compound recovery technologies.  The contribution will provide results and findings from the application of this approach to the TASCMAR project.
Dr Asaf Ariel, Scientific Advisor at Israeli NGO EcoOcean and TASCMAR partner
USING BIOLOGY TO HELP BIOPROSPECTING IN MARINE ENVIRONMENT
 
Claire LAGUIONIE MARCHAIS1,2, Ryan YOUNG1,2,3, Sylvia SOLDATOU3,4, Jacqueline VON SALM4, Mark JOHNSON1,2, Bill BAKER3,4, A. Louise ALLCOCK1,2
 
1Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland
2School of Natural Sciences, NUI Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland
3School of Chemistry, NUI Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland
4Department of Chemistry and Center for Drug Discovery and Innovation, University of South Florida, Tampa, Fl., USA
 
email: claire.laguionie-marchais@nuigalway.ie
 
One goal of the Science Foundation Ireland project “Exploiting and conserving deep-sea genetic resources” that started in September 2016 is to analyse the economic potential of deep-sea Irish waters in relation to Porifera and Cnidaria bioactive compound production. However, defining the bioactivity of natural compounds is a complex task as few natural products have been tested in a comprehensive series of bioassays, but rather too often limited to a particular group of diseases. We have developed a method to assess the potential drugability of secondary metabolites found in marine organisms that we illustrate here for Cnidaria. Firstly, the metabolites originating from this phylum were extracted from the Royal Society of Chemistry’s MarinLit database and their 3-dimensional structures obtained. Secondly, the 3D structures of all the FDA-approved small molecule drugs were downloaded from Chemspider. Thirdly, Schrödinger’s QikProp was utilized to evaluate 52 physicochemical features of each compound contained within the two datasets. The features of each compound were analysed using multivariate analyses and the two datasets compared in order to identify overlapping chemical space between the secondary metabolites and the already approved drugs. We test how informative this approach is and whether it can be used to predict the likelihood of families and genera of Cnidaria producing bioactive / drug-like marine natural products. Our end goal is to generate estimates of drug-related marine economic potential and identify biological “hot spots” for biodiscovery as well as developing informed bioprospecting approaches to maximise the chance of finding pharmaceutical active natural products in difficult environments to sample such as deep-sea ecosystems.
Dr Claire Laguionie Marchais, National University of Ireland Galway
TASCMAR EU-H2020 PROJECT, A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO LIFT THE VEIL ON THE UNDER-INVESTIGATED MESOPHOTIC CORAL ECOSYSTEMS (MCES) THROUGH A GLOBAL, INDUSTRY-DRIVEN, APPROACH.
 
Jamal OUAZZANI, TASCMAR Consortium
 
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, CNRS, Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles ICSN, Avenue de la Terrasse 91198, Gif-sur-Yvette, cedex, France.
 
jamal.ouazzani@cnrs.fr
 
TASCMAR aspires to develop new tools and strategies in order to overcome existing bottlenecks in the biodiscovery and industrial exploitation of novel marine derived biomolecules (secondary metabolites and enzymes) with applications in the pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and fine chemicals industries. Exploitation of neglected and underutilized marine invertebrates and symbionts from the mesophotic zone will be combined with innovative approaches for the cultivation and extraction of marine organisms from lab to pilot-scale, using the unique prototypes Platotex™ and Zippertex™, both reaching Technology Readiness Level 7. Thus, marine dedicated cultivation and extraction equipment will be built and validated. These unique improvements will ensure a sustainable supply of biomass and will promote the production of high added value bioactive marine compounds. An integrated, holistic technological metabolomic approach will be applied, in conjunction with bioactivity profiling, as filtering and bio-prioritisation tools. Moreover, state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation and in-house databases will be employed for the dereplication and characterization of valuable compounds.
A panel of libraries (marine organisms, extracts, pure metabolites and biocatalysts) will be constructed and exploited throughout the project. A focused panel of in-vitro, cell-based, in-ovo and in-vivo bioassays for discovering metabolites with anti-ageing and/or angiogenesis modulating activity will frame the entire work-flow and will reveal the lead compounds. In addition, the catalytic potential of mesophotic symbionts and deriving enzymes candidates will be evaluated in fine chemicals and bioremediation industries. The project activities will be constantly assessed via effective management for their societal, economical and environmental impact in order to find the best compromise between industrial development and sustainable growth.
TASCMAR project coordinator, Dr Jamal Ouazzani
MICROBIAL SYMBIONTS OF MESOPHOTIC INVERTEBRATES, IS THERE SOMETHING NEW TO EXPECT?
 
Géraldine Le Goff,1 Anne-Isaline van Bohemen,1 Michal Weis,2 Erez Shoham,2 Ronen Liberman,2 Yehuda Benayahu,2 & Jamal Ouazzani,1
 
1 Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, CNRS, Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles ICSN, Avenue de la Terrasse 91198, Gif-sur-Yvette, cedex, France.
2 School of Zoology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978 Israel
 
email: jamal.ouazzani@cnrs.fr
 
In parallel to an in depth investigation of the invertebrate communities in mesophotic coral-reef ecosystems (MCEs), the microbial symbiotic communities deserve intensive efforts both at the ecological and chemical level. In the frame of the EU project TASCMAR, actinomycetes and fungi were isolated from invertebrates collected in the northern Red Sea (Gulf of Aqaba) and eastern Mediterranean between 40 and 140m depth. The microorganisms were grown in marine broth using innovative SSF/SPE and AgSF/SPE methodology and their extracts submitted to a diverse panel of molecular and cell based bioassays. The objective is to discover new compounds against age-related diseases and disorders.1
In parallel, the isolated microorganisms are identified based on molecular 16S and ITS sequencing in order to reveal their diversity. [1]
 

[1]  Ouazzani J., Benayahu Y., Trougakos I. Seeking the fountain of youth in the twilight zone. The Marine Biologist, 2016, 9-11.
Dr Géraldine Le Goff, CNRS researcher and TASCMAR participant
POTENTIAL EXPLOITATION FOR THE CULTIVATION OF MESOPHOTIC INVERTEBRATE IN THE FRAME OF THE TASCMAR PROJECT
                 
Carolina Alonso Pozas1, Pedro A. Álvarez Molina2
 
1Carolina Alonso Pozas, Executive director of iMare Natural. Avda de la Habana nº16 Motril, Granada 18600
2Pedro Aº Álvarez Molina. I+D director of iMare Natural. Avda de la Habana nº16 Motril, Granada 18600
 
email contact: carolina.imare@gmail.com
 
INTRODUCTION
Many marine mesophotic invertebrates produce secondary metabolites that can be used as a natural source for developing new drugs, cosmetics and neutraceuticals. There is, however, an issue of sufficient supply of these natural substances for research and commercialization of the products.
Unfortunately, enormous quantities of secondary metabolites, higher than those that can be found in the natural populations, are necessary for pharmaceutical applications. To overcome this supply problem, different approaches were tested.
One of the most significant bottlenecks in cultivation techniques for invertebrates is low survival rate when organisms are removed from their natural environment.
This study was focused on culture improvements in indoor recirculation systems. New ecological attachment techniques had been tested, which consist of tying the organism to a support using a biodegradable cotton mesh. When the cotton mesh disappears, invertebrates were attached to the rock.
Different species of three Phyllum were tested in this study: cnidarians, sponges and tunicates.
 
MATERIAL AND METHODS
A 300 l aquarium with a homemade external filtration system was used.
The flow of water was 600l/h, so the aquarium had two water renovations per hour.
To simulate different hydrodynamics inside the tank, a plastic barrier was placed in the middle of the aquarium. Water flow was greater in the left half of the aquarium than in the right.
 
CONCLUSIONS
Our first hypothesis is that for sponges living in more open areas, a moderate flow of water is necessary for a correct attachment to their support (the case of Crella elegans).
Other species from the experiment (Dysidea avara, Acanthella acuta, Axinella damicornis) are demonstrating well behavior in the trials of fixing. All of them appear healthy, independent of flow of water. All of them usually live in caves, which are less exposed to strong current.  Biodegradable cotton mesh can be a very good solution for this purpose, as well as being sustainable.
Dr Carolina Alonso (executive director of iMare Natural) and Dr Pedro A. Álvarez (I+D director of iMare) and partners in the TASCMAR project

POSTER PRESETATIONS @ EMBS 52 - TASCMAR SESSION ON MESOPHOTIC ECOSYSTEMS: MYSTERIES AND RESEARCH CHALLENGES

INTEGRATED CULTURE OF FILTER FEEDERS (SPONGES) IN PRODUCTION TANKS OF SEA ANEMONES
Authors: Pedro A. Álvarez Molina1 Carolina Alonso Pozas2,
 
1Pedro Aº Álvarez Molina. I+D director of iMare Natural. Avda de la Habana nº16 Motril, Granada 18600
2Carolina Alonso Pozas, Executive director of iMare Natural. Avda de la Habana nº16 Motril, Granada 18600
 
email contact: pedro.imare@gmail.com

INTRODUCTION
With the filtering nature of sponges and their ability to move large flows of water to eat all kinds of phytoplankton, zooplankton (copepods, ciliates, rotifers, nauplii) and suspended organic matter, they can be integrated into production tanks of cnidarians and echinoderms of IMARE - with the dual aim of making biofilters in the recirculation system and generating biomass.This experiment was designed with the aim of successfully cultivating mesophotic species in the frame of the TASCMAR project. The experiment consisted of testing whether the sponges are effective in reducing the bacterial load of aquaculture residual water and therefore its application as biofilters in multitrophic systems. We are analyzing the number of bacterial colonies in the water, both in the circulating water of culture and in the water after its passage through the sponges, to verify if they really filter a significant part of the bacterial load.
 
MATERIAL AND METHODS
A plastic cage of 0,5cm net was fitted into the drain of each culture tank of anemones. This is where a strong suction current charged of suspended particles is generated. These filter feeders capture dissolved nutrients of the water and act as a mechanical biofilter, before the waste water passes through all phases of the recirculation system (silica sand filter, bio-balls and skimmer).
For this experiment we are using the production system of 7 tanks of 300 l, that only contains mesophotic anemones and other marine mesophotic invertebrates in cultivation and some sea urchins like algae cleaners of walls and bottoms. Three species of sponges have been used.
Each species is stored in two tanks, leaving the 7th tank as a control tank without sponges. The sponges are placed in reticulated plastic baskets, fitted into the drainage drain of each tank.
The drain pipe of each tank, on the outside, is drilled to insert a 6mm plastic-macaroni with its corresponding valve, to make it possible to extract water for microbiological analysis (DBO, DQO and microbiological analyses: Total coliforms, fecal coliforms and mesophilic aerobes). A water analytical plan for each tank is being established;
Two sampling points per tank:
  1. circulating water from the tank
  2. water from the drainage duct after its passage through the sponges (Dysidea avara, Chondrosia reniformis and Sarcotragus spinosula)

SEARCH FOR BIOACTIVE MOLECULES FROM THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT IN THE CONTEXT OF THE TASCMAR PROJECT: NEW PERSPECTIVES FOR LCSNSA
 
Email: Anne.Bialecki@univ-reunion.fr
 
SAID HASSANE Charifat, FOUILLAUD Mireille, BOYER Jean-Bernard, Patricia CLERC, DUFOSSÉ Laurent, GAUVIN-BIALECKI Anne
Laboratoire de Chimie des Substances Naturelles et des Sciences des Aliments, Faculté des Sciences et Technologies, Université de La Réunion, 15 Avenue René Cassin, CS 92003, 97744 Saint-Denis Cedex 9, La Réunion, France.
 
Marine invertebrates are considered as a goldmine with respect to the diversity of their secondary metabolites, which are in most cases, bioactive. The biological effects of new metabolites from marine invertebrates have been reported in hundreds of scientific papers. They have the potential to provide future drugs against important diseases, such as cancer, a range of viral diseases, malaria, and inflammation. Since the early 1990s, the Chemistry Laboratory of Natural Substances and Food Sciences (LCSNSA, University of La Reunion) has been trying to gain a foothold in this field of research. The laboratory which is located at Reunion Island is at a strategic location for the research of natural bioactive molecules. Indeed, with a series of islands scattered in the western Indian Ocean along the southeast coast of Africa (Madagascar, Seychelles, the Comoros, Mayotte, Mauritius, Eparses islands), Reunion Island belongs to a global biodiversity hotspot. This communication will therefore provide an outline of the contribution made by the LCSNSA to marine natural products research in the west of Indian Ocean. Over the last years, our research programs were more precisely concentrated on marine invertebrates from Reunion Island, Mayotte and Madagascar. Among the numerous marine invertebrates encountered in these areas, sponges, ascidians and soft corals have predominated in all our collection expeditions and have therefore received special attention from our research group. However, there is increasing evidence that many metabolites are not produced by the animals themselves but by associated micro-organisms. Thus, thanks to the H2020 TASCMAR project, we have the opportunity to continue to build our basic knowledge of the marine environment by working now in the field of marine biotechnology.
FISH ALPHA AND BETA DIVERSITY DECLINE WITH DEPTH (10-90 M) ON A RED SEA CORAL REEF
 
Tinian KOU, Guy P. HENDERSON, Deborah MCNEILL, David M. BAILEY
 
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow, Graham Kerr Building, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK
 
email: david.bailey@glasgow.ac.uk
 
Research into the distribution and biodiversity of mesophotic fish is restricted to a small number of areas worldwide, with most Red Sea mesophotic coral ecosystems being unstudied. The study site was Ras Qusier, on the Egyptian coast of the central Red Sea. Fish species relative abundances (maximum number seen at one time, MaxN) were recorded from 134 stereo-video camera deployments, over a depth range of 10 to 90 m. Species richness and diversity (Shannon Weaver) for each camera drop ( diversity) and variability in species composition between drops within depth bands ( diversity) were calculated. 59 species from 20 families were observed. Species richness and Shannon Weaver diversity both decreased significantly with depth with the surgeonfish Naso hexacanthus being the only fish observed >80 m.  diversity decreased significantly with depth, with greater variability in species composition between drops in the 10-19.9 m depth band than in all depth bands >40 m. The patterns observed in the fish assemblage appear to be linked to changes in substratum type, with stations deeper than 50 m being dominated by rocky and sediment substrata, with greater proportions of coral and seagrass <50 m. Species richness and relative abundance (MaxN) also increased significantly with distance from the nearby fishing community. Ongoing studies will explore a wider range of sites in order to disentangle the relative importance of anthropogenic and natural drivers of fish assemblage characteristics in the Red Sea.
SKIN PROTECTIVE EFFECTS OF MARINE INVERTEBRATES AND SYMBIONTS FROM THE MESOPHOTIC ZONE
 
Sophia Letsiou1*, Konstantinos Gardikis1, Eleni Spanidi1
Laboratory of biochemistry, Scientific Affairs Department, APIVITA S.A., Industrial Park of Markopoulo Mesogaias, 19003, Markopoulo Attikis, Athens, Greece
*corresponding author:letsiou-s@apivita.com
 
Nowadays, there is a huge interest in natural products obtained from marine organisms that can promote the state of health and well-being for humans. Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) appear to support a diverse biological community. The organisms living in this ecosystem need to adapt themselves to a suite of environmental conditions such as high pressure, lower sun radiation and lower temperature compared to those prevailing in the shallow water. Through evolution, this environmental stress has led to the development of unique structures, metabolic pathways, reproductive system, sensory and defense mechanism. Extracts from marine invertebrates and symbionts from the mesophotic zone are considered as  a primary source of bioactive compounds that could be used as functional ingredients. The aim of the present study is to evaluate in vitro, the effects of these extracts on primary normal human dermal fibroblasts (NHDF), so as to investigate the potential applications in cosmeceuticals focusing on potential anti-ageing activity and angiogenesis regulation activity.
In order to gain an insight into the molecular mechanisms of extracts bioactivity, we studied the transcript accumulation for an array of genes involved in anti-ageing and angiogenesis processes. NHDF cells were purchased from Lonza CloneticsTM. NHDF incubated with extracts for 48 hours at three different concentrations. In the first step, cytotoxicity was assessed by using MTT assay. In addition, anti-ageing activity and angiogenesis regulation activity of extracts on NHDF was confirmed by the regulation of several related transcripts (SIRT1, MMP9, IL8 and VEGF) involved in the relative pathways.
Current findings indicate that marine invertebrates and symbionts extracts from mesophotic zone possess strong anti-aging properties and provide new insights into the beneficial role of marine bioactive compounds in cosmetic formulations for skin protection.
LIFE HISTORY TRAITS OF MESOPHOTIC OCTOCORALS IN COMPARISON TO THE SHALLOW ONES

Ronen Liberman1 and Yehuda Benayahu2
1School of Zoology, George S. Weise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University,
Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel

email: ronenliberman@gmail.com
 
Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) are light-dependent coral communities found at 30-150 m and considered as  apotential reservoir of coral diversity. Recent technological advancement in technical diving has allowed us to examine whether MCEs communities are able to provide a viable reproductive source to shallower reef areas. Even though octocorals are a major component in MCEs, very little is known on their sexual reproduction in such depths. The current study is the first to examine octocoral reproduction in the upper MCEs (30-45 m, Eilat, northern Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea), also in comparison to the shallower reefs there. The study deals with the reproductive features of two common zooxanthellate species, the internal brooder Ovabunda sp. and the surface brooder Rhytisma f. fulvum. Both species have been monthly sampled since January 2016. They were examined for sex determination, presence of gonads and their annual development and in addition their larval release (planulation) was recorded. So far, the results have demonstrated that Rhytisma f. fulvum breeding season is similar in the upper MCEs and in the shallow reefs, thus suggesting possible connectivity between the populations of these two reef zones. Upper MCE's Ovabunda sp. colonies exhibit a disordered and prolonged breeding season, a possible adaptation to the mesophotic environment. The study also examines several physiological features of the upper MCEs octocorals, including percent of sclerites in the tissue, density of symbiotic zooxanthellae, their mitotic index and amount of chlorophyll. The results are expected to contribute to our understanding the biology and ecology of the mesophotic inhabitants in general and of the octocorals there in particular.  
The TASCMAR team celebrating the end of a successful participation at EMBS 52!
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TASCMAR has received funding under the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation, under grant agreement number 634674