Birmingham scientists have revealed a fresh solution to increase efficiency in biocatalysis, in a paper published today in Materials Horizons.
Biocatalysis uses enzymes, cells or microbes to catalyze chemical reactions, and can be used in settings like the food and chemical industries to create products that aren’t accessible by chemical synthesis. It could produce pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, or food ingredients on an industrial scale.
However a significant challenge in biocatalysis is that probably the most popular microbes, such as for example probiotics and non-pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli, aren’t necessarily proficient at forming biofilms, the growth promoting ecosystems that form a protective micro-environment around communities of microbes and increase their resilience therefore boost productivity.
This issue is generally solved by genetic engineering, but researchers Dr. Tim Overton from the university’s School of Chemical Engineering, and Dr. Francisco Fernndez Trillo from the institution of Chemistry, both of whom are members of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection, attempt to create an alternative solution solution to bypass this costly and time-consuming process.
The researchers identified a library of synthetic polymers and screened them because of their capability to induce biofilm formation in E. coli, a bacterium that’s probably the most widely studied micro-organisms, and popular in biocatalysis.
This screening used a strain of E. coli (MC4100) that’s trusted in fundamental science to review genes and proteins and may be poor at forming biofilms, and compared it to some other E. coli strain PHL644, an isogenic strain obtained through evolution that is clearly a good biofilm former.
This screening revealed the chemistries which are suitable to stimulating biofilm formation. Hydrophobic polymers outperformed mildly cationic polymers, with aromatic and heteroaromatic derivatives performing superior to the same aliphatic polymers.
The researchers then monitored the biomass and biocatalytic activity of both strains incubated the current presence of these polymers, and discovered that MC4100 matched and also outperformed PHL644.
Further studies examined the way the polymers stimulate these profound increases in activity. Here the study indicated that the polymers precipitate in solution, and become coagulants, stimulating an all natural process called flocculation that creates bacteria to create biofilms.
Dr. Fernandez-Trillo said: “We explored an easy chemical space and identified the very best performing chemistries and polymers that raise the biocatalytic activity of E. coli, a workhorse in biotechnology. It has resulted in a little library of synthetic polymers that increase biofilm formation when used as simple additives to microbial culture. To the very best of our knowledge, currently you can find no methods offering this simplicity and versatility when promoting biofilms for beneficial bacteria.”
“These synthetic polymers may bypass the necessity to introduce the traits for biofilm formation through gene editing, that is costly, time-consuming, non-reversible and takes a skilled person in microbiology to implement it. We believe this process comes with an impact beyond biofilms for biocatalysis. An identical strategy could possibly be employed to recognize candidate polymers for other microorganisms such as for example probiotics or yeasts, and develop new applications in food science, agriculture, bioremediation or health.”
University of Birmingham Enterprise has filed a patent application for the technique and polymer additives, and is currently seeking commercial partners for licensing.
More info: Pavan Adoni et al, Polymer-Induced Biofilms for Enhanced Biocatalysis, Materials Horizons (2022). DOI: 10.1039/D2MH00607C
Citation: New solution to promote biofilm formation and increase efficiency of biocatalysis (2022, August 1) retrieved 1 August 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-method-biofilm-formation-efficiency-biocatalysis.html
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