Metataxonomic profiling and prediction of functional behaviour of wheat straw degrading microbial consortia

Diego Javier Jiménez, Francisco Dini-Andreote, Jan Dirk Van Elsas

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Background: Mixed microbial cultures, in which bacteria and fungi interact, have been proposed as an efficient way to deconstruct plant waste. The characterization of specific microbial consortia could be the starting point for novel biotechnological applications related to the efficient conversion of lignocellulose to cello-oligosaccharides, plastics and/or biofuels. Here, the diversity, composition and predicted functional profiles of novel bacterial-fungal consortia are reported, on the basis of replicated aerobic wheat straw enrichment cultures. Results: In order to set up biodegradative microcosms, microbial communities were retrieved from a forest soil and introduced into a mineral salt medium containing 1% of (un)treated wheat straw. Following each incubation step, sequential transfers were carried out using 1 to 1,000 dilutions. The microbial source next to three sequential batch cultures (transfers 1, 3 and 10) were analyzed by bacterial 16S rRNA gene and fungal ITS1 pyrosequencing. Faith's phylogenetic diversity values became progressively smaller from the inoculum to the sequential batch cultures. Moreover, increases in the relative abundances of Enterobacteriales, Pseudomonadales, Flavobacteriales and Sphingobacteriales were noted along the enrichment process. Operational taxonomic units affiliated with Acinetobacter johnsonii, Pseudomonas putida and Sphingobacterium faecium were abundant and the underlying strains were successfully isolated. Interestingly, Klebsiella variicola (OTU1062) was found to dominate in both consortia, whereas K. variicola-affiliated strains retrieved from untreated wheat straw consortia showed endoglucanase/xylanase activities. Among the fungal players with high biotechnological relevance, we recovered members of the genera Penicillium, Acremonium, Coniochaeta and Trichosporon. Remarkably, the presence of peroxidases, alpha-L-fucosidases, beta-xylosidases, beta-mannases and beta-glucosidases, involved in lignocellulose degradation, was indicated by predictive bacterial metagenome reconstruction. Reassuringly, tests for specific (hemi)cellulolytic enzymatic activities, performed on the consortial secretomes, confirmed the presence of such gene functions. Conclusion: In an in-depth characterization of two wheat straw degrading microbial consortia, we revealed the enrichment and selection of specific bacterial and fungal taxa that were presumably involved in (hemi) cellulose degradation. Interestingly, the microbial community composition was strongly influenced by the wheat straw pretreatment. Finally, the functional bacterial-metagenome prediction and the evaluation of enzymatic activities (at the consortial secretomes) revealed the presence and enrichment of proteins involved in the deconstruction of plant biomass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number92
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 12 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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