Breaking down biomass with thermophilic bacteria

Aug 05, 2013
Breaking down biomass with thermophilic bacteria
Thermophilic bacteria, like the bacteria above that decorate the hot pools in Yellowstone National Park, hold key roles in the deconstruction of biomass. Credit: Bill Gracey

The deconstruction of biomass is a pivotal process in the biofuel industry, but the enzymes that possess a significant role in the breakdown of biomass remain relatively unexplored. To this end, DOE researchers at several national labs and user facilities are studying thermophilic bacteria, organisms that survive and thrive in high-temperature environments, that contain these enzymes.

In a study published July 19, 2013 in PLoS One, a team of scientists including groups from DOE Joint Genome Institute, the Joint BioEnergy Institute, and the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory researchers set out to further understand the specific proteins involved in biomass deconstruction in a thermophilic microbial community adapted to break down switchgrass, a candidate biofuel . The DOE JGI team sequenced and assembled metagenomic sequences while the EMSL team identified which proteins predicted by the metagenomics are produced by the microbial community.

The group was successful in reconstructing genomes for Thermus thermophilus and Rhodothermus marinus, two strains that made up a majority of the population samples. In addition, they were able to identify the phyla Paenibacillus and Gemmatimonadetes as important groups involved in biomass deconstruction. The results marked the first time that the functional roles of individual microbial populations within a consortium have been linked with specific . The team was able to identify more than 3,000 separate proteins associated with the breakdown of biomass, but the study indicates that there are even more unexplored proteins that could serve a purpose in this process.

Explore further: York's anti-malarial plant given Chinese approval

More information: PLoS ONE 8(7): e68465. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068465

Related Stories

Microbial who-done-it for biofuels

Jul 25, 2013

One of the keys to commercialization of advanced biofuels is the development of cost-competitive ways to extract fermentable sugars from lignocellulosic biomass. The use of enzymes from thermophiles - microbes ...

Fungal genome offers clues on how leaf-cutter ants farm

Jun 13, 2013

Leaf-cutter ants are well-known examples of insects that use microbes to gain access to nutrients, farming "gardens" in which bacteria and fungi break down plant mass. In an article featured on the cover ...

Microbial genomes help propose phylum name

Jun 05, 2013

At the phylum level, the number and diversity of unknown microbes still far outnumber those being studied. Metagenomics and single-cell genomics are tools helping researchers learn more about the "biological ...

Recommended for you

York's anti-malarial plant given Chinese approval

Apr 24, 2015

A new hybrid plant used in anti-malarial drug production, developed by scientists at the University of York's Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), is now registered as a new variety in China.

The appeal of being anti-GMO

Apr 24, 2015

A team of Belgian philosophers and plant biotechnologists have turned to cognitive science to explain why opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has become so widespread, despite positive contributions ...

Chinese team performs gene editing on human embryo

Apr 23, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers in China has announced that they have performed gene editing on human embryos. In their paper uploaded to the open access site Protein & Cell (after being rejected by Nat ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.