A new method to enhance biofilm formation and increase biostimulation efficiency

Birmingham scientists have revealed a new method for increasing efficiency in biocatalysis, in a paper published today in material prospects.

Biocatalysis uses enzymes, cells, or microbes to catalyze chemical reactions and is used in places such as the chemical and food industries to make products inaccessible for chemical synthesis. You can produce pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals or food ingredients on an industrial scale.

However, the main challenge with biostimulation is that the most commonly used microbes, such as probiotics and non-pathogenic strains of Escherichia coliThey are not necessarily good at creating biofilms, promoting growth of ecosystems that form a protective microenvironment around microbial communities and increase their resilience and thus improve productivity.

This problem is usually solved by genetic engineering, but researchers Dr. Tim Overton from the university’s School of Chemical Engineering and Dr. Francisco Fernandez Trillo from the School of Chemistry*, both members of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection, set out to create an alternative method to bypass this costly and time-consuming process. .

The researchers identified and examined a library of synthetic polymers for their ability to induce biofilm formation in coli bacteriaThe germ is one of the most extensively studied microorganisms, and is commonly used in biostimulation.

Use this stress control coli bacteria (MC4100), which is widely used in basic sciences to study genes and proteins and is known to be weak in the formation of biofilms and compare it with others coli bacteria Strain PHL644 is an isogenic strain obtained through evolution and is a good precedent for biofilms.

This assay revealed the most appropriate chemistry to stimulate biofilm formation. The hydrophobic polymers outperformed the moderately cationic polymers, and the performance of the aromatic and heterocyclic derivatives is much better than the equivalent aliphatic polymers.

The researchers then monitored the biomass and biocatalytic activity of both incubated strains for the presence of these polymers, and found that MC4100 matches and even outperforms PHL644.

Other studies have examined how polymers catalyze these profound increases in activity. The research here indicated that polymers precipitate from solution, act as coagulants, and catalyze a natural process called flocculation that stimulates bacteria to form biofilms.

Dr Fernandez Trillo said: “We have explored a broad chemical area and identified the best performing chemicals and polymers that increase the biocatalytic activity of coli bacteriaHe’s a biotech worker. This has led to the creation of a small library of synthetic polymers that enhance biofilm formation when used as simple additives for microbial culture. To our knowledge, there are currently no methods that provide this simplicity and versatility in promoting biofilms of beneficial bacteria. «

“These synthetic polymers can avoid the need to introduce traits of biofilm formation through gene editing, which is costly, time-consuming and irreversible and requires someone with microbiology skills to apply it. We believe this approach has an impact beyond biofilms for biocatalysis. A similar strategy is to identify candidate polymers for other microorganisms such as probiotics or yeasts, and to develop new applications in food science, agriculture, bioprocessing, or health.

The University of Birmingham Enterprise has filed a patent application for the method and polymer additives, and is now seeking commercial licensing partners.

* Dr. Fernandez Trillo now works at the University of Coruña, Spain.

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