Ecological and biotechnological importance of secondary metabolites produced by coral-associated bacteria

J Appl Microbiol. 2020 Dec;129(6):1441-1457. doi: 10.1111/jam.14766. Epub 2020 Jul 23.


Symbiotic relationships between corals and their associated micro-organisms are essential to maintain host homeostasis. Coral-associated bacteria (CAB) can have different beneficial roles in the coral metaorganism, such as metabolizing essential nutrients for the coral host and protecting the coral from pathogens. Many CAB exert these functions via secondary metabolites, which include antibacterial, antifouling, antitumour, antiparasitic and antiviral compounds. This review describes how analysis of CAB has led to the discovery of secondary metabolites with potential biotechnological applications. The most commonly found types of secondary metabolites, antimicrobial and antibiofilm compounds, are emphasized and described. Recently developed methods that can be applied to enhance the culturing of CAB from shallow-water reefs and the less-studied deep-sea coral reefs are also discussed. Last, we suggest how the combined use of meta-omics and innovative growth-diffusion techniques can vastly improve the discovery of novel compounds in coral environments.

Keywords: antibacterial; antibiofilm; antifouling; antimicrobial; coral reefs; coral-associated bacteria; deep-sea coral; secondary metabolites.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / microbiology*
  • Anti-Infective Agents / isolation & purification
  • Anti-Infective Agents / metabolism
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacteria / chemistry*
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Biological Products / isolation & purification
  • Biological Products / metabolism*
  • Biological Products / pharmacology
  • Biotechnology
  • Coral Reefs
  • Genomics
  • Symbiosis


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Biological Products