A species of algae previously reported to inhabit the seas around the British Isles and the East China Sea has now been found thriving in the Indian Ocean.The algae belong to a type known as endophytic — meaning they are microscopic in size and found living inside macroscopic seaweeds.
The researchers were able to discover the microscopic endophytic alga within its host seaweeds using advanced microscopes and extracted and sequenced a small genomic region called Internal Transcribed Spacer, which is a routinely used DNA bar code for aquatic plants, and compared the sequence information with the global DNA sequence database NCBI-GenBank to confirm the identity of the endophytic algae.
They also reconstructed molecular evolutionary legacy of this alga using computational phylogenetics, to reconfirm the identity.
They are believed to confer ecological advantage to the host such as disease resistance.
The discovery in the Indian Ocean gains significance because these algae may very well be an important source of anticancer compounds such as Taxol and this discovery may contribute in anticancer drug development.
Taxol, or Paclitaxel, is a well known anti cancer drug currently in use for many cancers including ovarian cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. Most of the marine endophytes produce taxol, although no confirmation exists for the Ulvella leptochaete.