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Biotechnol Annu Rev. 2000;6:221-41.

Prevention of marine biofouling using natural compounds from marine organisms.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK.


All surfaces that are submerged in the sea rapidly become covered by a biofilm. This process, called biofouling, has substantial economic consequences. Paints containing tri-butyl-tin (TBT) and copper compounds are used to protect marine structures by reducing biofouling. However, these compounds have damaging effects on the marine environment, as they are not biodegradable. It has been noted that many seaweeds and invertebrates found in the sea are not covered by a mature biofilm. This is due to the release of compounds into the surrounding seawater that deter the settlement of fouling organisms. In addition, seaweeds and invertebrates have bacteria on their surfaces that produce compounds to deter settling organisms. The production of compounds by bacteria and their living hosts work in concert to protect the hosts' surfaces. All of these compounds can be collected so they may be natural alternatives to TBT and copper compounds. However, the benefits associated with the use of bacteria as sources of these compounds means that bacteria are the organisms of choice for obtaining natural products for antifouling coatings.

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