All Publications

  • Degradation of polypropylene by fungi Coniochaeta hoffmannii and Pleurostoma richardsiae. Microbiological research Porter, R., Černoša, A., Fernández-Sanmartín, P., Cortizas, A. M., Aranda, E., Luo, Y., Zalar, P., Podlogar, M., Gunde-Cimerman, N., Gostinčar, C. 2023; 277: 127507


    The urgent need for better disposal and recycling of plastics has motivated a search for microbes with the ability to degrade synthetic polymers. While microbes capable of metabolizing polyurethane and polyethylene terephthalate have been discovered and even leveraged in enzymatic recycling approaches, microbial degradation of additive-free polypropylene (PP) remains elusive. Here we report the isolation and characterization of two fungal strains with the potential to degrade pure PP. Twenty-seven fungal strains, many isolated from hydrocarbon contaminated sites, were screened for degradation of commercially used textile plastic. Of the candidate strains, two identified as Coniochaeta hoffmannii and Pleurostoma richardsiae were found to colonize the plastic fibers using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Further experiments probing degradation of pure PP films were performed using C. hoffmannii and P. richardsiae and analyzed using SEM, Raman spectroscopy and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy with attenuated total reflectance (FTIR-ATR). The results showed that the selected fungi were active against pure PP, with distinct differences in the bonds targeted and the degree to which each was altered. Whole genome and transcriptome sequencing was conducted for both strains and the abundance of carbohydrate active enzymes, GC content, and codon usage bias were analyzed in predicted proteomes for each. Enzymatic assays were conducted to assess each strain's ability to degrade naturally occurring compounds as well as synthetic polymers. These investigations revealed potential adaptations to hydrocarbon-rich environments and provide a foundation for further investigation of PP degrading activity in C. hoffmannii and P. richardsiae.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.micres.2023.127507

    View details for PubMedID 37793281

  • Fatty Acid Synthesis Knockdown Promotes Biofilm Wrinkling and Inhibits Sporulation in Bacillus subtilis. mBio Arjes, H. A., Gui, H., Porter, R., Atolia, E., Peters, J. M., Gross, C., Kearns, D. B., Huang, K. C. 2022: e0138822


    Many bacterial species typically live in complex three-dimensional biofilms, yet much remains unknown about differences in essential processes between nonbiofilm and biofilm lifestyles. Here, we created a CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) library of knockdown strains covering all known essential genes in the biofilm-forming Bacillus subtilis strain NCIB 3610 and investigated growth, biofilm colony wrinkling, and sporulation phenotypes of the knockdown library. First, we showed that gene essentiality is largely conserved between liquid and surface growth and between two media. Second, we quantified biofilm colony wrinkling using a custom image analysis algorithm and found that fatty acid synthesis and DNA gyrase knockdown strains exhibited increased wrinkling independent of biofilm matrix gene expression. Third, we designed a high-throughput screen to quantify sporulation efficiency after essential gene knockdown; we found that partial knockdowns of essential genes remained competent for sporulation in a sporulation-inducing medium, but knockdown of essential genes involved in fatty acid synthesis exhibited reduced sporulation efficiency in LB, a medium with generally lower levels of sporulation. We conclude that a subset of essential genes are particularly important for biofilm structure and sporulation/germination and suggest a previously unappreciated and multifaceted role for fatty acid synthesis in bacterial lifestyles and developmental processes. IMPORTANCE For many bacteria, life typically involves growth in dense, three-dimensional communities called biofilms that contain cells with differentiated roles held together by extracellular matrix. To examine how essential gene function varies between vegetative growth and the developmental states of biofilm formation and sporulation, we created and screened a comprehensive library of strains using CRISPRi to knockdown expression of each essential gene in the biofilm-capable Bacillus subtilis strain 3610. High-throughput assays and computational algorithms identified a subset of essential genes involved in biofilm wrinkling and sporulation and indicated that fatty acid synthesis plays important and multifaceted roles in bacterial development.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/mbio.01388-22

    View details for PubMedID 36069446