The term secondary metabolite usually refers to biological molecules that are not involved in primary metabolism, such as proteins and nucleic acids that are the basic machinery of life. Although secondary metabolites often represent only a small fraction of the total biomass of an organism, they are at the basis of ecological specialization since they can affect species' distribution and feeding patterns, as well as reproductive success and community organization. Many of these compounds find important biotechnological applications in biomedical research and in the agriculture, aquaculture and chemical industries. However, at the ecological level, the role of these compounds remains largely unknown. In the last decade, there has been an increased awareness that many secondary metabolites play fundamental roles as defences against predators and competitors, infochemicals, allelogens and kairomones, and are therefore driving ecosystem functionality at the genetic, species and ecosystem level.

download poster (v. November 2008)


ROSEMEB aims at developing and applying novel and ecologically relevant methodologies to studies of allelopathy, antipredation, anifouling, antimicrobial, and other possible functions of secondary metabolites to better understand their diversity and what environmental factors trigger increased production of these compounds. Most institutes can provide only a part of the know-how and facilities needed for a multidisciplinary approach necessary to address these problems. Therefore the project will be designed so as to exchange information about metabolites in terms of structure, function, and biosynthetic pathways within the RMP participants. Moreover facilities in the laboratory and field will be shared, as well as the possibility of using sophisticated instruments (e.g. NMR, flow cytometry, confocal microscopy). Samples for chemical and biological screening will be exchanged among network members and inter-calibration of methods will be achieved.

The project will be designed to allow Researchers, and PhD and Postdoctoral students to spend short periods of time (weeks to months) in other institutes to gain experience in techniques not available at their own institute, or to teach this experience elsewhere. The RMP would allow the participants to collaborate in a project that cannot be carried out by a single institute, and will allow for the training of young scientists in the rapidly growing discipline of chemical ecology.

ROSEMEB: Role of Secondary Metabolites in driving ecosystem functionality and maintaining ecosystem biodiversity is a Responsive Mode Project undertaken within the MarBEF EU Network of Excellence, funded under the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Union
Principal investigator: Adrianna Ianora
Public outreach: Raffaella Casotti