Blue Biotechnology and Ecotoxicology

Principal Investigator:
Vitor Vasconcelos

The main objective of BBE is the study and valorization of bioactive compounds produced mainly by microorganisms (e.g. cyanobacteria, planctomycetes, dinoflagelates, microalgae), with a special emphasis on toxins and other natural compounds with pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, cosmeceutical, allelopathic, ecological, antifoulings and other industrial applications.

BBE main research lines and objectives:

1) Discovery and characterization of new bioactive compounds produced by microorganisms with ecological, pharmaceutical or other industrial applications and study of their biosynthesis;

a) Use of cyanobacteria metabolites to control the evolution of phytoplankton communities, searching allelopathic substances to prevent phytoplankton blooms.

b) Pharmacological and nutraceutical applications of bioactive substances produced by microorganisms. Isolation and structure elucidation of antimicrobial, anticancerigenous, antiobesity and anti-inflamatory substances from microorganisms of our culture collections. Evaluation of their biosynthesis and mode of action. 

c) Development of new antifouling assays; selection of the most promising cyanobacteria secondary metabolites with antifouling properties against mussels and barnacles.

2) Study of the diversity and toxicity of the natural compounds and their effects from the molecular to the ecosystem levels.

a) Marine emergent toxins. We have shown the occurrence in Portuguese coastal waters of emergent marine toxins such as TTX, BMAA and cyclic imines, so will map the occurrence of these toxins and others such as ciguatoxin and palytoxins, study the geographical and seasonal patterns and to unravel new toxin vectors. 

b) Cyanobacteria toxin diversity and effects. We will continue to study the cyanotoxin diversity and occurrence in special the invasive cylindrospermopsin and its effects, the bioavailability of cyanotoxins in complex matrices and the detoxication mechanisms.

Publications Highlights

Carneiro, M., Gutiérrez-Praena, D., Osório, H., Vasconcelos, V., Carvalho, A.P., Campos, A. 2015. Proteomic analysis of anatoxin-a acute toxicity in zebrafish reveals gender specific responses and additional mechanisms of cell stress. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 120: 93-101.

Freitas, S., Martins, R., Costa, M., Leão, P.N., Vitorino, R., Vasconcelos, V., Urbatzka, R. 2016. Hierridin B isolated from a marine cyanobacterium alters VDAC1, mitochondrial activity, and cell cycle genes on HT-29 colon adenocarcinoma cells. Marine Drugs, 14(9): 158.

Graça, A.P., Calisto, R., Lage, O.M. 2016. Planctomycetes as novel source of bioactive molecules. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7: 1241. [doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.01241]

Almeida J.R., Correia-Da-Silva M., Sousa E., Antunes J., Pinto M., Vasconcelos V., Cunha I. 2017. Antifouling potential of Nature-inspired sulfated compounds. Scientific Reports, 7:42424.

Leão, P.N., Nakamura, H., Costa, M., Pereira, A.R., Martins, R., Vasconcelos, V., Gerwick, W.H., Balskus, E.P. 2015. Biosynthesis-Assisted Structural Elucidation of the Bartolosides, Chlorinated Aromatic Glycolipids from Cyanobacteria. Angewandte Chemie. 127: 11215-11219.