While it may seem a breakthrough
to isolate even a single, solitary compound from a porifera
species, certain species are developing into chemical
compound gold mines. To be toxic towards a diversity of
organisms such as fish, bacteria, and fungi, sponges require
several different compounds. Many of these compounds are
consistent throughout taxonomical classification. By an
intricate process, chemicals are developed and secreted
by sponges into surrounding waters and their surface tissues.
When certain organisms approach the "cloud,"
it proves hazardous to their general well-being. If a
fish or other more advanced organism were to attempt to
consume the sponge, they would be either poisoned or overwhelmed
by a unpleasant taste. Similar to the cloud of "ink"
that a giant squid disperses, this is an efficient defense
mechanism that has been in operation for millions of years.
However, the defense of a squid is visible, and the defense
of a sponge is silent, invisible, and toxic.
(collected of the the coast of Faror da Barrar, Salvador,
Brazil) has had several compounds extracted from its tissues
in recent years. Basically, two guanidine alkaloids were
discovered to be highly bioactive. A guanidine alkaloid
is, in the most elementary terms, a strong crystalline
base composed of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen with bioactive
qualities and derived from plant and animal tissues. The
two compounds derived from the tissues of M. arbuscula
are Crambescidin 800 and 8b-Hydroxyptilocaulin.
However, since these
compounds are components of a complex structure, isolation
techniques are involved and elaborate. The following is
a synopsis of the procedure utilized in the isolation
of Crambescidin 800:
• Fragments of the sponge were stored
• The fragments were then extracted.
• When partially evaporated, the
remaining solution was extracted with hexane (a solvent
used in some thermometers), CCl4, and n-butanol
(alcohol of a gaseous hydrocarbon used as a solvent)
• Reduced pressure evaporated the
• The solid remainder was chromatographed
(a process to separate a complex mixture by filtering
it through a medium)
• Flash chromatography and silica
gel were then used to further isolate the compound
Not only was this compound a bioactive
substance, but it also proved that the genus Monanchora
was related to the genus Crambe, which also contained
Crambescidin compounds within its species.
After the isolationof Crambescidin
800, it was imperative to obtain larger samples of M.
arbuscula so that the scientists would have the capacity
to conduct more extensive tests. Thus, samples were obtained
at Cat Cay Lagoon, off the coast of Belize. Despite a
different location, the samples were identical to the
Brazilian samples. Such a correlation indicated that the
chemical compounds were generated by the sponge and not
by specialized environmental factors that existed by chance.
While the samples were identical, the more expanded samples
enabled the extraction of two additional compounds. Ptilocaulin,
one compound isolated, was the exact same compound which
had been isolated from a Caribbean sponge, P. spiculifer.
However, the other compound, 8b-Hydroxyptilocaulin, obtained
through reverse chromatography with Ptilocaulin and nitrate
was entirely novel. Its basic molecul structure was similar
to that of Ptilocaulin, with fifteen carbon atoms, twenty-five
hydrogen atoms, and three nitrogen atoms, but the hydrochloride
contained an additional oxygen atom. Subsequently, the
molecular structure of 8b-Hydroxyptilocaulin is C15H25N3O.
Since this compound is also similar to the compounds of
the Mediterranean species Crambe crambe, there
is less distinction between the two genuses of Monanchora
and Crambe. Not only is taxonomy less confusng,
but the discovery may benefit human beings. Since Crambe
species are bioactive and demonstrate anti-bacterial,
anti-fungal, and anti-cellular, new bio-products may be
manufactured as medication.
At this time, the creators of this page
would like to thank Dr. Eduardo Hajdu for his permission
to use his copyrighted papers on this subject as research.
By our own means, we would never have been able to develop
a full understanding of the topic.