The secretion of extracellular enzymes by soil microbes is rate-limiting in the global recycling of biomass. Fungi and bacteria compete and collaborate for nutrients in the soil, with wide ranging ecological impacts. Within soil microbiota, the Bacteroidetes tend to be a dominant bacterial phylum, just like in human and animal intestines. The enzymology of Bacteroidetes in the dynamic and competitive soil environment is under-explored compared to their cousins from the human and ruminant gut ecosystems. We are exploring carbohydrate binding and deconstruction by . This species was isolated from the leaf litter of a pine forest, and our ongoing microbiological, biochemical, and proteomic analyses show that has a marked metabolic preference for carbohydrates (glycans) of microbial, rather than plant, origin. The species has a repertoire of enzymes that degrade components of the fungal cell wall, and we are characterising several important enzyme activities, including some with unusual substrate specificity.

Several features of the “cazome” make it note-worthy. In particular, there is a significantly reduced reliance on the Polysaccharide Utilisation Loci that define glycan acquisition in most well-studied gut symbiont Bacteroidetes. Instead, produces some large multi-modular enzymes that convey multiple complementary carbohydrate-binding and -degrading functions, and which are often secreted via the phylum-specific Type IX Secretion System.

This presentation will highlight our latest enzyme characterisation data, discussed in the context of the environmental functions of soil bacteria, as well as the use of enzymes for industrial biotechnology.


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