Bacteria in marine environments are often under extreme conditions of e.g., pressure, temperature, salinity, and depletion of micronutrients, with survival and proliferation often depending on the ability to produce biologically active compounds. Some marine bacteria produce biosurfactants, which help to transport hydrophobic low water soluble substrates by increasing their bioavailability. However, other functions related to heavy metal binding, quorum sensing and biofilm formation have been described. In the case of metal ions, bacteria developed a strategy involving the release of binding agents to increase their bioavailability. In the particular case of the Fe3+
ion, which is almost insoluble in water, bacteria secrete siderophores that form soluble complexes with the ion, allowing the cells to uptake the iron required for cell functioning. Adaptive changes in the lipid composition of marine bacteria have been observed in response to environmental variations in pressure, temperature and salinity. Some fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids, have only been reported in prokaryotes in deep-sea bacteria. Cell membrane permeability can also be adapted to extreme environmental conditions by the production of hopanoids, which are pentacyclic triterpenoids that have a function similar to cholesterol in eukaryotes. Bacteria can also produce molecules that prevent the attachment, growth and/or survival of challenging organisms in competitive environments. The production of these compounds is particularly important in surface attached strains and in those in biofilms. The wide array of compounds produced by marine bacteria as an adaptive response to demanding conditions makes them suitable candidates for screening of compounds with commercially interesting biological functions. Biosurfactants produced by marine bacteria may be helpful to increase mass transfer in different industrial processes and in the bioremediation of hydrocarbon-contaminated sites. Siderophores are necessary e.g., in the treatment of diseases with metal ion imbalance, while antifouling compounds could be used to treat man-made surfaces that are used in marine environments. New classes of antibiotics could efficiently combat bacteria resistant to the existing antibiotics. The present work aims to provide a comprehensive review of the metabolites produced by marine bacteria in order to cope with intrusive environments, and to illustrate how such metabolites can be advantageously used in several relevant areas, from bioremediation to health and pharmaceutical sectors.