Potential Polymer-Degrading Bacteria Isolated

Sea weed-associated bacteria have potential for bio-remediation of agro-waste based raw materials.

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Researchers from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Institute of Microbial Technology (CSIR-IMTech) have recently explored bacterial communities associated with red, brown, and green macroalgae marine seaweeds to isolate bacteria with the potential for degrading polymers.

A team comprising Pravin Kumar, Ashish Verma, Shiva S. Sundharam, Anup Kumar Ojha, and Srinivasan Krishnamurthi of CSIR-IMTech has explored the intertidal coastal region of Goa and Maharashtra for their research. Hydrolysis of commonly present plant-based polysaccharides on these bacteria was done to find their potential for degrading polymer.

“India produces approximately 350 billion tons of organic waste from agriculture. Most of it remains untreated and underutilized and is disposed of either by burning, dumping or landfilling, leading to air and soil pollution. The biodegradation of these difficult-to-degrade materials using bacteria capable of breaking them down into simpler materials can mitigate the pollution,” said the team while speaking to India Science Wire.

Researchers are of the opinion that some valuable by-products can also be produced by such metabolism that can be further utilized in industrial applications. High potential exists for applying their enzyme systems as a bio-remediation option for agro-wastes in the form of green and eco-friendly technologies.

“A total of 238 bacterial strains were identified and screened for polysaccharide degradation. About 212 individual bacteria were found to degrade at least one substrate among the five different substrates used in this study. One hundred twenty-nine bacteria could degrade a minimum of three or more substrates. Since the bacteria were isolated from a marine environment, they could thrive in moderate temperatures and high salt concentrations,” researchers inform.

Apart from exploring bioremediation potential, the researchers could also isolate a few novel bacteria from this study, adding to the repertoire of reported microbial biodiversity and ex-situ preservation.

The team collected samples from different coastal locations during low tide. They were processed to identify algal samples and culturing bacteria to retrieve the maximum diversity of isolates by providing the appropriate nutrients and culture conditions. The isolated bacteria were further identified using molecular ribosomal RNA gene sequencing and screened for polymer degradation. 75.6% of the strains degraded more than one polysaccharide, 24% degraded all polymers, and nine strains (3.8%) degraded raw sugarcane bagasse.

“The marine macroalgae offer a diverse and complex microbial community with high enzymatic potential for application in bio-remediation of agro-wastes. Further work is required in pre-treatment of the substrates and the formulation of microbial consortia/strain optimization to increase the degradation potential to industrial scale,” researchers observe.

The study shows potential for sea weed-associated bacteria in the bio-remediation of agro-waste-based raw materials, which can be employed as green technology.

The study has been published in MDPI, an Open-access journal. (India Science Wire).