Metabolic and ecological study of environmental pentose utilizing bacteria (E-PUB)

Sharmin, Farhana (2012) Metabolic and ecological study of environmental pentose utilizing bacteria (E-PUB). PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Lignocellulosic materials, such as sugar cane bagasse, a waste product of the sugarcane processing industry, agricultural residues and herbaceous crops, may serve as an abundant and comparatively cheap feedstock for largescale industrial fermentation, resulting in the production of marketable end-products. However, the complex structure of lignocellulosic materials, the presence of various hexose and pentose sugars in the hemicellulose component, and the presence of various compounds that inhibit the organisms selected for the fermentation process, all constitute barriers that add to the production costs and make full scale industrial production economically less feasible. The work presented in this thesis was conducted in order to screen microorganisms for ability to utilize pentose sugars derived from the sugar mill industrial waste. A large number of individual bacterial strains were investigated from hemi-cellulose rich material collected at the Proserpine and Maryborough sugar mills, notably soil samples from the mill sites. The research conducted to isolation of six pentose-capable Gram-positive organisms from the actinomycetes group by using pentose as a sole carbon source in the cultivation process.

The isolates were identified as Corynebacterium glutamicum, Actinomyces odontolyticus, Nocardia elegans, and Propionibacterium freudenreichii all of which were isolated from the hemicellulose-enriched soil. Pentose degrading microbes are very rare in the environment, so this was a significant discovery. Previous research indicated that microbes could degrade pentose after genetic modification but the microbes discovered in this research were able to naturally utilize pentose.

Six isolates, identified as four different genera, were investigated for their ability to utilize single sugars as substrates (glucose, xylose, arabinose or ribose), and also dual sugars as substrates (a hexose plus a pentose). The results demonstrated that C. glutamicum, A. odontolyticus, N. elegans, and P. freudenreichii were pentose-capable (able to grow using xylose or other pentose sugar), and also showed diauxie growth characteristics during the dual-sugar (glucose, in combination with xylose, arabinose or ribose) carbon source tests. In addition, it was shown that the isolates displayed very small differences in growth rates when grown on dual sugars as compared to single sugars, whether pentose or hexose in nature.

The anabolic characteristics of C. glutamicum, A. odontolyticus, N. elegans and P. freudenreichii were subsequently investigated by qualitative analysis of their end-products, using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). All of the organisms produced arginine and cysteine after utilization of the pentose substrates alone. In addition, P. freudenreichii produced alanine and glycine. The end-product profile arising from culture with dual carbon sources was also tested. Interestingly, this time the product was different. All of them produced the amino acid glycine, when grown on a combination substrate-mix of glucose with xylose, and also glucose with arabinose. Only N. elegans was able to break down ribose, either singly or in combination with glucose, and the end-product of metabolism of the glucose plus ribose substrate combination was glutamic acid.

The ecological analysis of microbial abundance in sugar mill waste was performed using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and also the metagenomic microarray PhyloChip method. Eleven solid samples and seven liquid samples were investigated. A very complex bacterial ecosystem was demonstrated in the seven liquid samples after testing with the PhyloChip method. It was also shown that bagasse leachate was the most different, compared to all of the other samples, by virtue of its richness in variety of taxa and the complexity of its bacterial community. The bacterial community in solid samples from Proserpine, Mackay and Maryborough sugar mills showed huge diversity. The information found from 16S rDNA sequencing results was that the bacterial genera Brevibacillus, Rhodospirillaceae, Bacillus, Vibrio and Pseudomonas were present in greatest abundance. In addition, Corynebacterium was also found in the soil samples.

The metagenomic studies of the sugar mill samples demonstrate two important outcomes: firstly that the bagasse leachate, as potentially the most pentose-rich sample tested, had the most complex and diverse bacterial community; and secondly that the pentose-capable isolates that were initially discovered at the beginning of this study, were not amongst the most abundant taxonomic groups discovered in the sugar mill samples, and in fact were, as suspected, very rare. As a bioprospecting exercise, therefore, the study has discovered organisms that are naturally present, but in very small numbers, in the appropriate natural environment. This has implications for the industrial application of E-PUB, in that a seeding process using a starter culture will be necessary for industrial purposes, rather than simply assuming that natural fermentation might occur.

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ID Code: 60051
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Hargreaves, Megan, Bartley, John, Huygens, Flavia, & Dawson, Mark
Keywords: pentose utilizing bacteria (E-PUB), metabolic study, ecological study
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Biomedical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 16 May 2013 01:30
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015 04:43

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