WP3 - Extreme environments deep marine biodiversity and biotechnology

Work Package (WP3) "Deep-sea extreme environments, marine biodiversity and biotechnology” includes 3 main actions aimed at developing new tools for the investigation of deep-sea ecosystems, for improving our knowledge on deep-sea biodiversity and for identifying new molecules and biological processes for potential biotechnological applications. The main results of the WP3 can be summarized as follows:

A1 - Development of technologies and instrumentation

Setting up observatory located on the sea-bottom connected with the surface through a buoy and a preliminary study for the construction of a new submarine device with small size and weight.

A2 - Biodiversity in deep-sea extreme environments;

Development and optimization of protocols for the analysis of biodiversity of different biological components, from viruses and prokaryotes to metazoans in several deep-sea areas (both in pelagic and benthic ecosystems) using molecular techniques based on next generation sequencing (i.e., 454 sequencing for the analysis of viral diversity and prokaryotic diversity based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing and IlluminaMiSeq for 18S rRNA gene sequencing of metazoans); analysis of biodiversity of different components using traditional approaches and comparison with results obtained using molecular techniques; multilevel investigation of biodiversity in the pelagic (from prokaryotes, protists, nano-, pico- and macroplankton to micronekton) and benthic ecosystem (from viruses to megafauna) along canyons and adjacent slopes in the Ligurian Sea; new insights by ROV investigations carried out in the Ligurian Sea of the presence of live and dead colonies of deep water scleractinian coral Dendrophyllia cornigera and the presence of the anthipatarian Leiopathes glaberrima; discovery of chemosymbiotic macrofauna associated with hydrothermal vents of the Palinuro Seamount; identification of lush colonies of the scleractinian Madrepora oculata, Lophelia pertusa and Desmophyllum dianthus in the southern Sardinian margin.

Instruments used on board of R/V Minerva Uno during the oceanographic cruise “Bioling” in the Ligurian Sea

A3 - Bioprospecting for the detection of molecules and biological processes for potential applications in biotechnology

Discovery of new genes of biotechnological interest using metagenomic analysis followed by cloning and expression of some of these genes in host organisms for the production of active enzymes. Several metagenomes from deep-sea water and sediment samples of the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Sea have been analyzed and assembled. These analyses allowed the identification of several genes some of which have been further investigated by cloning and gene expression analyses. In particular, ten archaeal glycoside hydrolase have been selected. A total of 103 strains were isolated from water and sediment samples (including mud volcano samples).