Tel Aviv University researchers develop new cellulose hydrolysis method

In Israel, a novel approach to cellulose hydrolysis using a consortium of motile bacteria moving on solid surfaces and carrying microbial lug-gage – another bacteria that can efficiently hydrolyze cellulose, was demonstrated by the group of Professor Eshel Ben- Jacob (R.I.P) from Tel Aviv University. 

The innovation of the approach is the use of the recombinant E. coli as a microbial luggage of another highly motile bacteriaPaenibacillus vortex.Paenibacillus vortex is known for its ability to swarm (coordinated migration on solid surfaces using flagella) and collaborate with other microorganisms by carrying them in specialized structures called vortices (Fig 1 a). Thus, two bacterial species create a mutually beneficial consortium in whichPaenibacillus vortex provides a motile force while the E. coli degrades cellulose into monomers and dimers, making it available for uptake by both microorganisms.

Moreover, Paenibacillus vortex has the ability to degrade xylan, thus contributing its own enzymes to the consortium making it even more effective for degradation of the plant material. Since Paenibacillus vortex has the ability to swarm on solid mediums it might be relevant to use the consortium in Solid State hydrolysis of plant materials such as crops leftovers. This application of using crops needs more research, and, maybe, addition of other microorganisms relevant for fermentation. If it is be feasible it would allow easier and cheaper way to hydrolyze cellulose

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