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1.  Bacterial Exopolysaccharides from Extreme Marine Habitats: Production, Characterization and Biological Activities 
Marine Drugs  2010;8(6):1779-1802.
Many marine bacteria produce exopolysaccharides (EPS) as a strategy for growth, adhering to solid surfaces, and to survive adverse conditions. There is growing interest in isolating new EPS producing bacteria from marine environments, particularly from extreme marine environments such as deep-sea hydrothermal vents characterized by high pressure and temperature and heavy metal presence. Marine EPS-producing microorganisms have been also isolated from several extreme niches such as the cold marine environments typically of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, characterized by low temperature and low nutrient concentration, and the hypersaline marine environment found in a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems such as salt lakes and salterns. Most of their EPSs are heteropolysaccharides containing three or four different monosaccharides arranged in groups of 10 or less to form the repeating units. These polymers are often linear with an average molecular weight ranging from 1 × 105 to 3 × 105 Da. Some EPS are neutral macromolecules, but the majority of them are polyanionic for the presence of uronic acids or ketal-linked pyruvate or inorganic residues such as phosphate or sulfate. EPSs, forming a layer surrounding the cell, provide an effective protection against high or low temperature and salinity, or against possible predators. By examining their structure and chemical-physical characteristics it is possible to gain insight into their commercial application, and they are employed in several industries. Indeed EPSs produced by microorganisms from extreme habitats show biotechnological promise ranging from pharmaceutical industries, for their immunomodulatory and antiviral effects, bone regeneration and cicatrizing capacity, to food-processing industries for their peculiar gelling and thickening properties. Moreover, some EPSs are employed as biosurfactants and in detoxification mechanisms of petrochemical oil-polluted areas. The aim of this paper is to give an overview of current knowledge on EPSs produced by marine bacteria including symbiotic marine EPS-producing bacteria isolated from some marine annelid worms that live in extreme niches.
PMCID: PMC2901825  PMID: 20631870
chemical composition; exopolysaccharides; extremophiles; marine bacteria; biological activity
2.  RNA-Seq Analysis Provides Insights for Understanding Photoautotrophic Polyhydroxyalkanoate Production in Recombinant Synechocystis Sp. 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86368.
The photosynthetic cyanobacterium, Synechocystis sp. strain 6803, is a potential platform for the production of various chemicals and biofuels. In this study, direct photosynthetic production of a biopolymer, polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), in genetically engineered Synechocystis sp. achieved as high as 14 wt%. This is the highest production reported in Synechocystis sp. under photoautotrophic cultivation conditions without the addition of a carbon source. The addition of acetate increased PHA accumulation to 41 wt%, and this value is comparable to the highest production obtained with cyanobacteria. Transcriptome analysis by RNA-seq coupled with real-time PCR was performed to understand the global changes in transcript levels of cells subjected to conditions suitable for photoautotrophic PHA biosynthesis. There was lower expression of most PHA synthesis-related genes in recombinant Synechocystis sp. with higher PHA accumulation suggesting that the concentration of these enzymes is not the limiting factor to achieving high PHA accumulation. In order to cope with the higher PHA production, cells may utilize enhanced photosynthesis to drive the product formation. Results from this study suggest that the total flux of carbon is the possible driving force for the biosynthesis of PHA and the polymerizing enzyme, PHA synthase, is not the only critical factor affecting PHA-synthesis. Knowledge of the regulation or control points of the biopolymer production pathways will facilitate the further use of cyanobacteria for biotechnological applications.
PMCID: PMC3899235  PMID: 24466058
3.  Comparison of four phaC genes from Haloferax mediterranei and their function in different PHBV copolymer biosyntheses in Haloarcula hispanica 
Saline Systems  2010;6:9.
The halophilic archaeon Haloferax mediterranei is able to accumulate large amounts of poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) with high molar fraction of 3-hydroxyvalerate (3HV) from unrelated carbon sources. A Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) synthase composed of two subunits, PhaCHme and PhaEHme, has been identified in this strain, and shown to account for the PHBV biosynthesis.
With the aid of the genome sequence of Hfx. mediterranei CGMCC 1.2087, three additional phaC genes (designated phaC1, phaC2, and phaC3) were identified, which encoded putative PhaCs. Like PhaCHme (54.8 kDa), PhaC1 (49.7 kDa) and PhaC3 (62.5 kDa) possessed the conserved motifs of type III PHA synthase, which was not observed in PhaC2 (40.4 kDa). Furthermore, the longer C terminus found in the other three PhaCs was also absent in PhaC2. Reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) revealed that, among the four genes, only phaCHme was transcribed under PHA-accumulating conditions in the wild-type strain. However, heterologous coexpression of phaEHme with each phaC gene in Haloarcula hispanica PHB-1 showed that all PhaCs, except PhaC2, could lead to PHBV accumulation with various 3HV fractions. The three kinds of copolymers were characterized using gel-permeation chromatography (GPC), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA). Their thermal properties changed with the variations in monomer composition as well as the different molecular weights (Mw), thus might meet various application requirements.
We discover three cryptic phaC genes in Hfx. mediterranei, and demonstrate that genetic engineering of these newly identified phaC genes has biotechnological potential for PHBV production with tailor-made material properties.
PMCID: PMC2939530  PMID: 20727166
4.  The Ralstonia eutropha PhaR Protein Couples Synthesis of the PhaP Phasin to the Presence of Polyhydroxybutyrate in Cells and Promotes Polyhydroxybutyrate Production 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(1):59-66.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are polyoxoesters that are produced by many bacteria and that accumulate as intracellular granules. Phasins (PhaP) are proteins that accumulate during PHA synthesis, bind PHA granules, and promote further PHA synthesis. Interestingly, PhaP accumulation seems to be strictly dependent on PHA synthesis, which is catalyzed by the PhaC PHA synthase. Here we have tested the effect of the Ralstonia eutropha PhaR protein on the regulation of PhaP accumulation. R. eutropha strains with phaR, phaC, and/or phaP deletions were constructed, and PhaP accumulation was measured by immunoblotting. The wild-type strain accumulated PhaP in a manner dependent on PHA production, and the phaC deletion strain accumulated no PhaP, as expected. In contrast, both the phaR and the phaR phaC deletion strains accumulated PhaP to higher levels than did the wild type. This result implies that PhaR is a negative regulator of PhaP accumulation and that PhaR specifically prevents PhaP from accumulating in cells that are not producing PHA. Transfer of the R. eutropha phaR, phaP, and PHA biosynthesis (phaCAB) genes into a heterologous system, Escherichia coli, was sufficient to reconstitute the PhaR/PhaP regulatory system, implying that PhaR both regulates PhaP accumulation and responds to PHA directly. Deletion of phaR caused a decrease in PHA yields, and a phaR phaP deletion strain exhibited a more severe PHA defect than a phaP deletion strain, implying that PhaR promotes PHA production and does this at least partially through a PhaP-independent pathway. Models for regulatory roles of PhaR in regulating PhaP and promoting PHA production are presented.
PMCID: PMC134771  PMID: 11741844
5.  Diversity of Microbial Communities in Production and Injection Waters of Algerian Oilfields Revealed by 16S rRNA Gene Amplicon 454 Pyrosequencing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66588.
The microorganisms inhabiting many petroleum reservoirs are multi-extremophiles capable of surviving in environments with high temperature, pressure and salinity. Their activity influences oil quality and they are an important reservoir of enzymes of industrial interest. To study these microbial assemblages and to assess any modifications that may be caused by industrial practices, the bacterial and archaeal communities in waters from four Algerian oilfields were described and compared. Three different types of samples were analyzed: production waters from flooded wells, production waters from non-flooded wells and injection waters used for flooding (water-bearing formations). Microbial communities of production and injection waters appeared to be significantly different. From a quantitative point of view, injection waters harbored roughly ten times more microbial cells than production waters. Bacteria dominated in injection waters, while Archaea dominated in production waters. Statistical analysis based on the relative abundance and bacterial community composition (BCC) revealed significant differences between production and injection waters at both OTUs0.03 and phylum level. However, no significant difference was found between production waters from flooded and non-flooded wells, suggesting that most of the microorganisms introduced by the injection waters were unable to survive in the production waters. Furthermore, a Venn diagram generated to compare the BCC of production and injection waters of one flooded well revealed only 4% of shared bacterial OTUs. Phylogenetic analysis of bacterial sequences indicated that Alpha-, Beta- and Gammaproteobacteria were the main classes in most of the water samples. Archaeal sequences were only obtained from production wells and each well had a unique archaeal community composition, mainly belonging to Methanobacteria, Methanomicrobia, Thermoprotei and Halobacteria classes. Many of the bacterial genera retrieved had already been reported as degraders of complex organic molecules and pollutants. Nevertheless, a large number of unclassified bacterial and archaeal sequences were found in the analyzed samples, indicating that subsurface waters in oilfields could harbor new and still-non-described microbial species.
PMCID: PMC3689743  PMID: 23805243
6.  Identification and Biochemical Evidence of a Medium-Chain-Length Polyhydroxyalkanoate Depolymerase in the Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus Predatory Hydrolytic Arsenal 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(17):6017-6026.
The obligate predator Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus HD100 shows a large set of proteases and other hydrolases as part of its hydrolytic arsenal needed for its predatory life cycle. We present genetic and biochemical evidence that open reading frame (ORF) Bd3709 of B. bacteriovorus HD100 encodes a novel medium-chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoate (mcl-PHA) depolymerase (PhaZBd). The primary structure of PhaZBd suggests that this enzyme belongs to the α/β-hydrolase fold family and has a typical serine hydrolase catalytic triad (serine-histidine-aspartic acid) in agreement with other PHA depolymerases and lipases. PhaZBd has been extracellularly produced using different hypersecretor Tol-pal mutants of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas putida as recombinant hosts. The recombinant PhaZBd has been characterized, and its biochemical properties have been compared to those of other PHA depolymerases. The enzyme behaves as a serine hydrolase that is inhibited by phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride. It is also affected by the reducing agent dithiothreitol and nonionic detergents like Tween 80. PhaZBd is an endoexohydrolase that cleaves both large and small PHA molecules, producing mainly dimers but also monomers and trimers. The enzyme specifically degrades mcl-PHA and is inactive toward short-chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoates (scl-PHA) like polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). These studies shed light on the potentiality of these predators as sources of new biocatalysts, such as an mcl-PHA depolymerase, for the production of enantiopure hydroxyalkanoic acids and oligomers as building blocks for the synthesis of biobased polymers.
PMCID: PMC3416617  PMID: 22706067
7.  PhaC and PhaR Are Required for Polyhydroxyalkanoic Acid Synthase Activity in Bacillus megaterium 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(14):4235-4243.
Polyhydroxyalkanoic acids (PHAs) are a class of polyesters stored in inclusion bodies and found in many bacteria and in some archaea. The terminal step in the synthesis of PHA is catalyzed by PHA synthase. Genes encoding this enzyme have been cloned, and the primary sequence of the protein, PhaC, is deduced from the nucleotide sequences of more than 30 organisms. PHA synthases are grouped into three classes based on substrate range, molecular mass, and whether or not there is a requirement for phaE in addition to the phaC gene product. Here we report the results of an analysis of a PHA synthase that does not fit any of the described classes. This novel PHA synthase from Bacillus megaterium required PhaC (PhaCBm) and PhaR (PhaRBm) for activity in vivo and in vitro. PhaCBm showed greatest similarity to the PhaCs of class III in both size and sequence. Unlike those in class III, the 40-kDa PhaE was not required, and furthermore, the 22-kDa PhaRBm had no obvious homology to PhaE. Previously we showed that PhaCBm, and here we show that PhaRBm, is localized to inclusion bodies in living cells. We show that two forms of PHA synthase exist, an active form in PHA-accumulating cells and an inactive form in nonaccumulating cells. PhaC was constitutively produced in both cell types but was more susceptible to protease degradation in the latter type. Our data show that the role of PhaR is posttranscriptional and that it functions directly or indirectly with PhaCBm to produce an active PHA synthase.
PMCID: PMC95313  PMID: 11418564
8.  Perspectives on biotechnological applications of archaea 
Archaea  2002;1(2):75-86.
Many archaea colonize extreme environments. They include hyperthermophiles, sulfur-metabolizing thermophiles, extreme halophiles and methanogens. Because extremophilic microorganisms have unusual properties, they are a potentially valuable resource in the development of novel biotechnological processes. Despite extensive research, however, there are few existing industrial applications of either archaeal biomass or archaeal enzymes. This review summarizes current knowledge about the biotechnological uses of archaea and archaeal enzymes with special attention to potential applications that are the subject of current experimental evaluation. Topics covered include cultivation methods, recent achievements in genomics, which are of key importance for the development of new biotechnological tools, and the application of wild-type biomasses, engineered microorganisms, enzymes and specific metabolites in particular bioprocesses of industrial interest.
PMCID: PMC2685559  PMID: 15803645
biotechnology; extremozymes; high density cultivation; recombinant DNA technology
9.  Comparative genomic analyses of the cyanobacterium, Lyngbya aestuarii BL J, a powerful hydrogen producer 
The filamentous, non-heterocystous cyanobacterium Lyngbya aestuarii is an important contributor to marine intertidal microbial mats system worldwide. The recent isolate L. aestuarii BL J, is an unusually powerful hydrogen producer. Here we report a morphological, ultrastructural, and genomic characterization of this strain to set the basis for future systems studies and applications of this organism. The filaments contain circa 17 μm wide trichomes, composed of stacked disk-like short cells (2 μm long), encased in a prominent, laminated exopolysaccharide sheath. Cellular division occurs by transversal centripetal growth of cross-walls, where several rounds of division proceed simultaneously. Filament division occurs by cell self-immolation of one or groups of cells (necridial cells) at the breakage point. Short, sheath-less, motile filaments (hormogonia) are also formed. Morphologically and phylogenetically L. aestuarii belongs to a clade of important cyanobacteria that include members of the marine Trichodesmiun and Hydrocoleum genera, as well as terrestrial Microcoleus vaginatus strains, and alkalyphilic strains of Arthrospira. A draft genome of strain BL J was compared to those of other cyanobacteria in order to ascertain some of its ecological constraints and biotechnological potential. The genome had an average GC content of 41.1%. Of the 6.87 Mb sequenced, 6.44 Mb was present as large contigs (>10,000 bp). It contained 6515 putative protein-encoding genes, of which, 43% encode proteins of known functional role, 26% corresponded to proteins with domain or family assignments, 19.6% encode conserved hypothetical proteins, and 11.3% encode apparently unique hypothetical proteins. The strain's genome reveals its adaptations to a life of exposure to intense solar radiation and desiccation. It likely employs the storage compounds, glycogen, and cyanophycin but no polyhydroxyalkanoates, and can produce the osmolytes, trehalose, and glycine betaine. According to its genome, BL J strain also has the potential to produce a plethora of products of biotechnological interest such as Curacin A, Barbamide, Hemolysin-type calcium-binding toxin, the suncreens scytonemin, and mycosporines, as well as heptadecane and pentadecane alkanes. With respect to hydrogen production, initial comparisons of the genetic architecture and sequence of relevant genes and loci, and a comparative model of protein structure of the NiFe bidirectional hydrogenase, did not reveal conspicuous differences that could explain its unusual hydrogen producing capacity.
PMCID: PMC3858816  PMID: 24376438
biohydrogen; cyanobacteria; bidirectional hydrogenase; hoxH; hydrogen; Lyngbya aestuarii; microbial mats
10.  The metabolic response of P. putida KT2442 producing high levels of polyhydroxyalkanoate under single- and multiple-nutrient-limited growth: Highlights from a multi-level omics approach 
Pseudomonas putida KT2442 is a natural producer of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), which can substitute petroleum-based non-renewable plastics and form the basis for the production of tailor-made biopolymers. However, despite the substantial body of work on PHA production by P. putida strains, it is not yet clear how the bacterium re-arranges its whole metabolism when it senses the limitation of nitrogen and the excess of fatty acids as carbon source, to result in a large accumulation of PHAs within the cell. In the present study we investigated the metabolic response of KT2442 using a systems biology approach to highlight the differences between single- and multiple-nutrient-limited growth in chemostat cultures.
We found that 26, 62, and 81% of the cell dry weight consist of PHA under conditions of carbon, dual, and nitrogen limitation, respectively. Under nitrogen limitation a specific PHA production rate of 0.43 (g·(g·h)-1) was obtained. The residual biomass was not constant for dual- and strict nitrogen-limiting growth, showing a different feature in comparison to other P. putida strains. Dual limitation resulted in patterns of gene expression, protein level, and metabolite concentrations that substantially differ from those observed under exclusive carbon or nitrogen limitation. The most pronounced differences were found in the energy metabolism, fatty acid metabolism, as well as stress proteins and enzymes belonging to the transport system.
This is the first study where the interrelationship between nutrient limitations and PHA synthesis has been investigated under well-controlled conditions using a system level approach. The knowledge generated will be of great assistance for the development of bioprocesses and further metabolic engineering work in this versatile organism to both enhance and diversify the industrial production of PHAs.
PMCID: PMC3325844  PMID: 22433058
P. putida KT2442; Nutrient limitation; Systems biology; Polyhydroxyalkanoates
11.  Role of Genetic Redundancy in Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) Polymerases in PHA Biosynthesis in Rhodospirillum rubrum 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(20):5522-5529.
This study investigated the apparent genetic redundancy in the biosynthesis of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) in the Rhodospirillum rubrum genome revealed by the occurrence of three homologous PHA polymerase genes (phaC1, phaC2, and phaC3). In vitro biochemical assays established that each gene product encodes PHA polymerase. A series of single, double, and triple phaC deletion mutants were characterized with respect to PHA production and growth capabilities on acetate or hexanoate as the sole carbon source. These analyses establish that phaC2 contributes the major capacity to produce PHA, even though the PhaC2 protein is not the most efficient PHA polymerase biocatalyst. In contrast, phaC3 is an insignificant contributor to PHA productivity, and phaC1, the PHA polymerase situated in the PHA biosynthetic operon, plays a minor role in this capability, even though both of these genes encode PHA polymerases that are more efficient enzymes. These observations are consistent with the finding that PhaC1 and PhaC3 occur at undetectable levels, at least 10-fold lower than that of PhaC2. The monomers in the PHA polymer produced by these strains establish that PhaC2 is responsible for the incorporation of the C5 and C6 monomers. The in vitro characterizations indicate that heteromeric PHA polymerases composed of mixtures of different PhaC paralogs are more efficient catalysts, suggesting that these proteins form complexes. Finally, the physiological role of PHA accumulation in enhancing the fitness of R. rubrum was indicated by the relationship between PHA content and growth capabilities of the genetically manipulated strains that express different levels of the PHA polymer.
PMCID: PMC3458679  PMID: 22865850
12.  Isolation and Screening of Polyhydroxyalkanoates Producing Bacteria from Pulp, Paper, and Cardboard Industry Wastes 
Background. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are storage materials that accumulate by various bacteria as energy and carbon reserve materials. They are biodegradable, environmentally friendly, and also biocompatible bioplastics. Unlike petrochemical-based plastics that take several decades to fully degrade, PHAs can be completely degraded within a year by variety of microorganisms into CO2 and water. In the present study, we aim to utilize pulp, paper, and cardboard industry sludge and waste water for the isolation and screening of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) accumulating bacteria and production of cost-effective PHB using cardboard industry waste water. Results. A total of 42 isolates showed black-blue coloration when stained with Sudan black B, a preliminary screening agent for lipophilic compounds, and a total of 15 isolates showed positive result with Nile blue A staining, a more specific dye for PHA granules. The isolates NAP11 and NAC1 showed maximum PHA production 79.27% and 77.63% with polymer concentration of 5.236 g/L and 4.042 g/L with cardboard industry waste water. Both of the selected isolates, NAP11 and NAC1, were classified up to genus level by studying their morphological and biochemical characteristics and were found to be Enterococcus sp., Brevundimonas sp. and, respectively. Conclusion. The isolates Enterococcus sp. NAP11 and Brevundimonas sp. NAC1 can be considered as good candidates for industrial production of PHB from cardboard industry waste water. We are reporting for the first time the use of cardboard industry waste water as a cultivation medium for the PHB production.
PMCID: PMC3830821  PMID: 24288534
13.  New PHA products using unrelated carbon sources 
Brazilian Journal of Microbiology  2011;42(4):1354-1363.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are natural polyesters stored by a wide range of bacteria as carbon source reserve. Due to its chemical characteristics and biodegradability PHA can be used in chemical, medical and pharmaceutical industry for many human purposes. Over the past years, few Burkholderia species have become known for production of PHA. Aside from that, these bacteria seem to be interesting for discovering new PHA compositions which is important to different industrial applications. In this paper, we introduce two new strains which belong either to Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc) or genomovar-type, Burkholderia cepacia SA3J and Burkholderia contaminans I29B, both PHA producers from unrelated carbon sources. The classification was based on 16S rDNA and recA partial sequence genes and cell wall fatty acids composition. These two strains were capable to produce different types of PHA monomers or precursors. Unrelated carbon sources were used for growth and PHA accumulation. The amount of carbon source evaluated, or mixtures of them, was increased with every new experiment until it reaches eighteen carbon sources. As first bioprospection experiments staining methods were used with colony fluorescent dye Nile Red and the cell fluorescent dye Nile Blue A. Gas chromatography analysis coupled to mass spectrometry was used to evaluate the PHA composition on each strain cultivated on different carbon sources. The synthesized polymers were composed by short chain length-PHA (scl-PHA), especially polyhydroxybutyrate, and medium chain length-PHA (mcl-PHA) depending on the carbon source used.
PMCID: PMC3768727  PMID: 24031764
Burkholderia; Burkholderia cepacia complex; Genomovar-type; mcl-PHA; polyhydroxyalkanoates; polyhydroxybutyrate
14.  Sequence analysis and structure prediction of type II Pseudomonas sp. USM 4–55 PHA synthase and an insight into its catalytic mechanism 
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), are biodegradable polyesters derived from many microorganisms such as the pseudomonads. These polyesters are in great demand especially in the packaging industries, the medical line as well as the paint industries. The enzyme responsible in catalyzing the formation of PHA is PHA synthase. Due to the limited structural information, its functional properties including catalysis are lacking. Therefore, this study seeks to investigate the structural properties as well as its catalytic mechanism by predicting the three-dimensional (3D) model of the Type II Pseudomonas sp. USM 4–55 PHA synthase 1 (PhaC1P.sp USM 4–55).
Sequence analysis demonstrated that PhaC1P.sp USM 4–55 lacked similarity with all known structures in databases. PSI-BLAST and HMM Superfamily analyses demonstrated that this enzyme belongs to the alpha/beta hydrolase fold family. Threading approach revealed that the most suitable template to use was the human gastric lipase (PDB ID: 1HLG). The superimposition of the predicted PhaC1P.sp USM 4–55 model with 1HLG covering 86.2% of the backbone atoms showed an RMSD of 1.15 Å. The catalytic residues comprising of Cys296, Asp451 and His479 were found to be conserved and located adjacent to each other. In addition to this, an extension to the catalytic mechanism was also proposed whereby two tetrahedral intermediates were believed to form during the PHA biosynthesis. These transition state intermediates were further postulated to be stabilized by the formation of oxyanion holes. Based on the sequence analysis and the deduced model, Ser297 was postulated to contribute to the formation of the oxyanion hole.
The 3D model of the core region of PhaC1P.sp USM 4–55 from residue 267 to residue 484 was developed using computational techniques and the locations of the catalytic residues were identified. Results from this study for the first time highlighted Ser297 potentially playing an important role in the enzyme's catalytic mechanism.
PMCID: PMC1636056  PMID: 17076907
15.  Small-scale analysis of exopolysaccharides from Streptococcus thermophilus grown in a semi-defined medium 
BMC Microbiology  2001;1:23.
Exopolysaccharides (EPSs) produced by lactic acid bacteria are important for the texture of fermented foods and have received a great deal of interest recently. However, the low production levels of EPSs in combination with the complex media used for growth of the bacteria have caused problems in the accurate analysis of the EPS. The purpose of this study was to find a growth medium for physiological studies of the lactic acid bacterium Streptococcus thermophilus, and to develop a simple method for qualitative and quantitative analysis of EPSs produced in this medium.
A semi-defined polysaccharide medium was developed and evaluated on six strains of Streptococcus thermophilus. The EPSs were analysed using a novel protocol incorporating ultracentrifugation for the removal of interfering sugars, hydrolysis and analysis of the monomer composition by High Performance Anion-Exchange Chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection. The medium and analysis method allowed accurate quantification and monomer analysis of 0.5 ml samples of EPSs from tube cultures.
The presented medium should be useful for physiological studies of S. thermophilus, and, in combination with the method of analysis of EPS, will allow downscaling of physiological studies and screening for EPSs.
PMCID: PMC57807  PMID: 11602017
16.  Anaerobic Thermophiles 
Life : Open Access Journal  2014;4(1):77-104.
The term “extremophile” was introduced to describe any organism capable of living and growing under extreme conditions. With the further development of studies on microbial ecology and taxonomy, a variety of “extreme” environments have been found and an increasing number of extremophiles are being described. Extremophiles have also been investigated as far as regarding the search for life on other planets and even evaluating the hypothesis that life on Earth originally came from space. The first extreme environments to be largely investigated were those characterized by elevated temperatures. The naturally “hot environments” on Earth range from solar heated surface soils and water with temperatures up to 65 °C, subterranean sites such as oil reserves and terrestrial geothermal with temperatures ranging from slightly above ambient to above 100 °C, to submarine hydrothermal systems with temperatures exceeding 300 °C. There are also human-made environments with elevated temperatures such as compost piles, slag heaps, industrial processes and water heaters. Thermophilic anaerobic microorganisms have been known for a long time, but scientists have often resisted the belief that some organisms do not only survive at high temperatures, but actually thrive under those hot conditions. They are perhaps one of the most interesting varieties of extremophilic organisms. These microorganisms can thrive at temperatures over 50 °C and, based on their optimal temperature, anaerobic thermophiles can be subdivided into three main groups: thermophiles with an optimal temperature between 50 °C and 64 °C and a maximum at 70 °C, extreme thermophiles with an optimal temperature between 65 °C and 80 °C, and finally hyperthermophiles with an optimal temperature above 80 °C and a maximum above 90 °C. The finding of novel extremely thermophilic and hyperthermophilic anaerobic bacteria in recent years, and the fact that a large fraction of them belong to the Archaea has definitely made this area of investigation more exciting. Particularly fascinating are their structural and physiological features allowing them to withstand extremely selective environmental conditions. These properties are often due to specific biomolecules (DNA, lipids, enzymes, osmolites, etc.) that have been studied for years as novel sources for biotechnological applications. In some cases (DNA-polymerase, thermostable enzymes), the search and applications successful exceeded preliminary expectations, but certainly further exploitations are still needed.
PMCID: PMC4187147  PMID: 25370030
anaerobic thermophiles; thermal ecosystems; extremophiles; deep-sea; taxonomy; biotechnology
17.  Role of Fatty Acid De Novo Biosynthesis in Polyhydroxyalkanoic Acid (PHA) and Rhamnolipid Synthesis by Pseudomonads: Establishment of the Transacylase (PhaG)-Mediated Pathway for PHA Biosynthesis in Escherichia coli 
Since Pseudomonas aeruginosa is capable of biosynthesis of polyhydroxyalkanoic acid (PHA) and rhamnolipids, which contain lipid moieties that are derived from fatty acid biosynthesis, we investigated various fab mutants from P. aeruginosa with respect to biosynthesis of PHAs and rhamnolipids. All isogenic fabA, fabB, fabI, rhlG, and phaG mutants from P. aeruginosa showed decreased PHA accumulation and rhamnolipid production. In the phaG (encoding transacylase) mutant rhamnolipid production was only slightly decreased. Expression of phaG from Pseudomonas putida and expression of the β-ketoacyl reductase gene rhlG from P. aeruginosa in these mutants indicated that PhaG catalyzes diversion of intermediates of fatty acid de novo biosynthesis towards PHA biosynthesis, whereas RhlG catalyzes diversion towards rhamnolipid biosynthesis. These data suggested that both biosynthesis pathways are competitive. In order to investigate whether PhaG is the only linking enzyme between fatty acid de novo biosynthesis and PHA biosynthesis, we generated five Tn5 mutants of P. putida strongly impaired in PHA production from gluconate. All mutants were complemented by the phaG gene from P. putida, indicating that the transacylase-mediated PHA biosynthesis route represents the only metabolic link between fatty acid de novo biosynthesis and PHA biosynthesis in this bacterium. The transacylase-mediated PHA biosynthesis route from gluconate was established in recombinant E. coli, coexpressing the class II PHA synthase gene phaC1 together with the phaG gene from P. putida, only when fatty acid de novo biosynthesis was partially inhibited by triclosan. The accumulated PHA contributed to 2 to 3% of cellular dry weight.
PMCID: PMC92987  PMID: 11425728
18.  Comparison of mcl-Poly(3-hydroxyalkanoates) synthesis by different Pseudomonas putida strains from crude glycerol: citrate accumulates at high titer under PHA-producing conditions 
BMC Biotechnology  2014;14(1):962.
Achieving a sustainable society requires, among other things, the use of renewable feedstocks to replace chemicals obtained from petroleum-derived compounds. Crude glycerol synthesized inexpensively as a byproduct of biodiesel production is currently considered a waste product, which can potentially be converted into value-added compounds by bacterial fermentation. This study aimed at evaluating several characterized P. putida strains to produce medium-chain-length poly(3-hydroxyalkanoates) (mcl-PHA) using raw glycerol as the only carbon/energy source.
Among all tested strains, P. putida KT2440 most efficiently synthesized mcl-PHA under nitrogen-limiting conditions, amassing more than 34% of its cell dry weight as PHA. Disruption of the PHA depolymerase gene (phaZ) in P. putida KT2440 enhanced the biopolymer titer up to 47% PHA (%wt/wt). The low biomass and PHA titer found in the mutant strain and the wild-type strain KT2440 seems to be triggered by the high production of the side-product citrate during the fermentation process which shows a high yield of 0.6 g/g.
Overall, this work demonstrates the importance of choosing an appropriate microbe for the synthesis of mcl-PHA from waste materials, and a close inspection of the cell metabolism in order to identify undesired compounds that diminish the availability of precursors in the synthesis of biopolymers such as polyhydroxyalkanoates. Future metabolic engineering works should focus on reducing the production of citrate in order to modulate resource allocation in the cell’s metabolism of P. putida, and finally increase the biopolymer production.
PMCID: PMC4299480  PMID: 25532606
Pseudomonas putida strains; mcl-polyhydroxyalkanoates; Raw glycerol; PHA depolymerase; Metabolic engineering; Citrate
19.  Evaluating PHA Productivity of Bioengineered Rhodosprillum rubrum 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96621.
This study explored the potential of using Rhodosprillum rubrum as the biological vehicle to convert chemically simple carbon precursors to a value-added bio-based product, the biopolymer PHA. R. rubrum strains were bioengineered to overexpress individually or in various combinations, six PHA biosynthetic genes (phaC1, phaA, phaB, phaC2, phaC3, and phaJ), and the resulting nine over-expressing strains were evaluated to assess the effect on PHA content, and the effect on growth. These experiments were designed to genetically evaluate: 1) the role of each apparently redundant PHA polymerase in determining PHA productivity; 2) identify the key gene(s) within the pha biosynthetic operon that determines PHA productivity; and 3) the role of phaJ to support PHA productivity. The result of overexpressing each PHA polymerase-encoding gene indicates that phaC1 and phaC2 are significant contributors to PHA productivity, whereas phaC3 has little effect. Similarly, over-expressing individually or in combination the three PHA biosynthesis genes located in the pha operon indicates that phaB is the key determinant of PHA productivity. Finally, analogous experiments indicate that phaJ does not contribute significantly to PHA productivity. These bioengineering strains achieved PHA productivity of up to 30% of dry biomass, which is approximately 2.5-fold higher than the non-engineered control strain, indicating the feasibility of using this approach to produce value added bio-based products.
PMCID: PMC4026134  PMID: 24840941
20.  Molecular Characterization of the phaECHm Genes, Required for Biosynthesis of Poly(3-Hydroxybutyrate) in the Extremely Halophilic Archaeon Haloarcula marismortui▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(19):6058-6065.
Although many haloarchaea produce biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), the genes involved in PHA synthesis in the domain of Archaea have not yet been experimentally investigated yet. In this study, we revealed that Haloarcula marismortui was able to accumulate poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) up to 21% of cellular dry weight when cultured in a minimal medium with excessive glucose and identified the phaEHm and phaCHm genes, probably encoding two subunits of a class III PHA synthase. These two genes were adjacent and directed by a single promoter located 26 bp upstream of the transcriptional start site and were constitutively expressed under both nutrient-rich and -limited conditions. Interestingly, PhaCHm was revealed to be strongly bound with the PHB granules, but PhaEHm seemed not to be. Introduction of either the phaEHm or phaCHm gene into Haloarcula hispanica, which harbors highly homologous phaECHh genes, could enhance the PHB synthesis in the recombinant strains, while coexpression of the both genes always generated the highest PHB yield. Significantly, knockout of the phaECHh genes in H. hispanica led to a complete loss of the PHA synthase activity. Complementation with phaECHm genes, but not a single one, restored the capability of PHB accumulation as well as the PHA synthase activity in this phaEC-deleted haloarchaeon. These results indicated that the phaEC genes are required for biosynthesis of PHB and might encode an active PHA synthase in the Haloarcula species.
PMCID: PMC2075026  PMID: 17675423
21.  Future of microbial polyesters 
Numerous microorganisms accumulate polyesters classified as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) as carbon and energy storage material when the growth condition is unfavorable in the presence of excess carbon source. Natural PHAs typically consist of various (R)-hydroxycarboxylic acids, and exhibit different material properties depending on the monomer composition. Such diversity comes from different metabolic pathways operating in the cell, and thus generating different monomers. Even more diverse PHAs can be produced by metabolically engineered microorganisms, which leads to the biosynthesis of non-natural polyesters containing lactate as a monomer. In order to make PHAs as useful polymers in our daily life, their production cost should be significantly lowered and material properties should be compatible with those produced by petrochemical industries. Metabolic engineering can address these issues by developing microbial strains capable of producing PHAs of desired material properties with high productivity and yield from inexpensive carbon sources. This commentary aims at peeking into the future of PHAs, focusing on the possible metabolic engineering strategies to be taken to achieve these goals.
PMCID: PMC3680211  PMID: 23714196
Polyester; Polyhydroxyalkanoate; Metabolic engineering
22.  Structure and Ecological Roles of a Novel Exopolysaccharide from the Arctic Sea Ice Bacterium Pseudoalteromonas sp. Strain SM20310 
The structure and ecological roles of the exopolysaccharides (EPSs) from sea ice microorganisms are poorly studied. Here we show that strain SM20310, with an EPS production of 567 mg liter−1, was screened from 110 Arctic sea ice isolates and identified as a Pseudoalteromonas strain. The EPS secreted by SM20310 was purified, and its structural characteristics were studied. The predominant repeating unit of this EPS is a highly complicated α-mannan with a molecular mass greater than 2 × 106 Da. The backbone of the EPS consists of 2-α-, 6-α-mannosyl residues, in which a considerable part of the 6-α-mannosyl residues are branched at the 2 position with either single t-mannosyl residues or two mannosyl residues. The structure of the described EPS is different from the structures of EPSs secreted by other marine bacteria. Analysis of the ecological roles of the identified EPS showed that the EPS could significantly enhance the high-salinity tolerance of SM20310 and improve the survival of SM20310 after freeze-thaw cycles. These results suggest that the EPS secreted by strain SM20310 enables the strain to adapt to the sea ice environment, which is characterized by low temperature, high salinity, and repeated freeze-thaw cycles. In addition to its functions in strain SM20310, this EPS also significantly improved the tolerance of Escherichia coli to freeze-thaw cycles, suggesting that it may have a universal impact on microorganism cryoprotection.
PMCID: PMC3536116  PMID: 23087043
23.  Engineering Escherichia coli for production of C12–C14 polyhydroxyalkanoate from glucose 
Metabolic engineering  2012;14(6):10.1016/j.ymben.2012.08.003.
Demand for sustainable materials motivates the development of microorganisms capable of synthesizing products from renewable substrates. A challenge to commercial production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), microbially derived polyesters, is engineering metabolic pathways to produce a polymer with the desired monomer composition from an unrelated and renewable source. Here, we demonstrate a metabolic pathway for converting glucose into medium-chain-length (mcl)-PHA composed primarily of 3-hydroxydodecanoate monomers. This pathway combines fatty acid biosynthesis, an acyl-ACP thioesterase to generate desired C12 and C14 fatty acids, β-oxidation for conversion of fatty acids to (R)-3-hydroxyacyl-CoAs, and a PHA polymerase. A key finding is that Escherichia coli expresses multiple copies of enzymes involved in β-oxidation under aerobic conditions. To produce polyhydroxydodecanoate, an acyl-ACP thioesterase (BTE), an enoyl-CoA hydratase (phaJ3), and mcl-PHA polymerase (phaC2) were overexpressed in E. coli ΔfadRABIJ. Yields were improved through expression of an acyl-CoA synthetase resulting in production over 15% CDW – the highest reported production of mcl-PHA of a defined composition from an unrelated carbon source.
PMCID: PMC3838867  PMID: 23141473
E. coli; Thioesterase; Polyhydroxyalkanoate; Homopolymer; β-oxidation; Dodecanoic acid
24.  High Polyhydroxybutyrate Production in Pseudomonas extremaustralis Is Associated with Differential Expression of Horizontally Acquired and Core Genome Polyhydroxyalkanoate Synthase Genes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e98873.
Pseudomonas extremaustralis produces mainly polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), a short chain length polyhydroxyalkanoate (sclPHA) infrequently found in Pseudomonas species. Previous studies with this strain demonstrated that PHB genes are located in a genomic island. In this work, the analysis of the genome of P. extremaustralis revealed the presence of another PHB cluster phbFPX, with high similarity to genes belonging to Burkholderiales, and also a cluster, phaC1ZC2D, coding for medium chain length PHA production (mclPHA). All mclPHA genes showed high similarity to genes from Pseudomonas species and interestingly, this cluster also showed a natural insertion of seven ORFs not related to mclPHA metabolism. Besides PHB, P. extremaustralis is able to produce mclPHA although in minor amounts. Complementation analysis demonstrated that both mclPHA synthases, PhaC1 and PhaC2, were functional. RT-qPCR analysis showed different levels of expression for the PHB synthase, phbC, and the mclPHA synthases. The expression level of phbC, was significantly higher than the obtained for phaC1 and phaC2, in late exponential phase cultures. The analysis of the proteins bound to the PHA granules showed the presence of PhbC and PhaC1, whilst PhaC2 could not be detected. In addition, two phasin like proteins (PhbP and PhaI) associated with the production of scl and mcl PHAs, respectively, were detected. The results of this work show the high efficiency of a foreign gene (phbC) in comparison with the mclPHA core genome genes (phaC1 and phaC2) indicating that the ability of P. extremaustralis to produce high amounts of PHB could be explained by the different expression levels of the genes encoding the scl and mcl PHA synthases.
PMCID: PMC4041789  PMID: 24887088
25.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of a novel thermoalkalophilic poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) depolymerase (PhaZ7) from Paucimonas lemoignei  
A novel thermoalkalophilic depolymerase, PhaZ7, from P. lemoignei was crystallized by the microdialysis technique. Crystals belong to space group C2 and diffract to 2.75 Å resolution at a synchrotron source.
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are biodegradable polyesters that have attracted commercial and academic interest as environmentally friendly materials. A number of enzymes are able to degrade polyhydroxyalkanoates to water-soluble products. PhaZ7 poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) depolymerase (EC, a 342-amino-acid hydrolase from the PHA-degrading bacterium Paucimonas lemoignei, has been found to possess substrate specificity for amorphous PHA. PhaZ7 was crystallized by the microdialysis method. Thin rod-like crystals were grown in low ionic strength solution and found to belong to the monoclinic space group C2, with unit-cell parameters a = 225.8, b = 46.5, c = 171.3, β = 128.9°. A complete data set was collected to 2.75 Å resolution at 100 K using synchrotron radiation.
PMCID: PMC1952301  PMID: 16511073
biopolymers; biodegradation; Paucimonas lemoignei; serine hydrolases; depolymerase

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