Diversity of microbial carbohydrate-active enzymes in Danish anaerobic digesters fed with wastewater treatment sludge

Posted on 2017-06-21 - 05:00
Abstract Background Improved carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) are needed to fulfill the goal of producing food, feed, fuel, chemicals, and materials from biomass. Little is known about how the diverse microbial communities in anaerobic digesters (ADs) metabolize carbohydrates or which CAZymes that are present, making the ADs a unique niche to look for CAZymes that can potentiate the enzyme blends currently used in industry. Results Enzymatic assays showed that functional CAZymes were secreted into the AD environments in four full-scale mesophilic Danish ADs fed with primary and surplus sludge from municipal wastewater treatment plants. Metagenomes from the ADs were mined for CAZymes with Homology to Peptide Patterns (HotPep). 19,335 CAZymes were identified of which 30% showed 50% or lower identity to known proteins demonstrating that ADs make up a promising pool for discovery of novel CAZymes. A function was assigned to 54% of all CAZymes identified by HotPep. Many different α-glucan-acting CAZymes were identified in the four metagenomes, and the most abundant family was glycoside hydrolase family 13, which contains α-glucan-acting CAZymes. Cellulytic and xylanolytic CAZymes were also abundant in the four metagenomes. The cellulytic enzymes were limited almost to endoglucanases and β-glucosidases, which reflect the large amount of partly degraded cellulose in the sludge. No dockerin domains were identified suggesting that the cellulytic enzymes in the ADs studied operate independently. Of xylanolytic CAZymes, especially xylanases and β-xylosidase, but also a battery of accessory enzymes, were present in the four ADs. Conclusions Our findings suggest that the ADs are a good place to look for novel plant biomass degrading and modifying enzymes that can potentiate biological processes and provide basis for production of a range of added-value products from biorefineries.


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