A team of researchers at the University of British Colombia discovered bacterial presence in synthetically produced woody biomass substrates.
Using a novel blend of stable isotope probing and metagenomics, the researchers labelled various synthetically produced woody biomass substrates with the help of carbon isotope. Through this method they were able to trace the microbes that incorporated inside the lignin through soil by analyzing its DNA by sequencing the chromosomes.
The new technique enables to identify the bacteria and enzymes, circumventing the need to culture bacteria. The role of bacteria in the decomposition of lignin has hence been proved owing to the new technique. Bacteria from the families of Comamonadaceae and Caulobacteraceae are involved in lignin degradation, according to the researchers.
William Mohn, lead author of the study and researcher at University of British Colombia, said, â€œThereâ€™s been a controversy in the literature for quite some time as to how important bacteria might be. Bacterial enzymes have many advantages in biotechnological applications and it may be much more practical to employ bacterial enzymes, rather than fungal ones for the breakdown of lignin.â€
The team hopes that using their methodology other scientists could engineer bacteria to convert lignin into commodity chemicals. Lignin can be potentially used to produce various products similar to those by products of petroleum.
â€œIf we want to target our carbon dioxide emissions we really need to understand the natural carbon cycle, of which terrestrial decomposition is a big player. By knowing what is breaking down what in the soil, â€˜hopefully it will help us to better project how carbon dioxide flux will evolve from the soil under different conditionsâ€™, says Kathe Todd Brown, a computational biogeochemist designing computer models focused on carbon cycling in soil at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the US.
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