Isolation and characterisation of a xylanase producing isolate from straw-based compost
Lignocellulosic biomass, a waste component of the agricultural industry, is a promising source for use in bioethanol production. Due to a complex structure, the synergistic action of lignocellulosic enzymes is required to achieve complete digestion to fermentable sugars. This study aimed to isolate, identify and characterise novel lignocellulase producing bacteria from thermophilic straw-based compost (71°C). Colonies with different morphological characteristics were isolated and screened for lignocellulosic activity. A facultative aerobic isolate RZ1 showed xylanase, cellulase and lipase/esterase activity. In addition to these activities, it was also able to produce proteases, catalases, amylases and gelatinases. RZ1 cells were motile, rod-shaped, Gram positive and endospore forming. The growth temperature of isolate RZ1 ranged from 25-55°C with optimal growth at 37°C. The 16S rRNA gene sequence was 99% identical to that of Bacillus subtilis strain MSB10. Based on the biochemical and physiological characteristics and 16S rRNA gene sequence, isolate RZ1 is considered a member of the species B. subtilis. A small insert genomic library with an average insert size of 5 kb was constructed and screened for lignocellulosic activity. An E.coli plasmid clone harbouring a 4.9 kb gDNA fragment tested positive for xylanase activity. The xyl R gene was identified with the aid of transposon mutagenesis and the deduced amino acid sequence showed 99% similarity to an endo-1-4-β-xylanase from B. pumilus. High levels of xylanases were produced when isolate RZ1 was cultured (37°C) with beechwood xylan as a carbon source. On the other hand, the production of xylanases was inhibited in the presence of xylose. Marked xylanase activity was measured in the presence of sugarcane bagasse, a natural lignocellulosic substrate. While active at 50°C, higher xylanase activity was detected at 37°C. Isolate RZ1 also produced accessory enzymes such as β-xylosidases and α-L-arabinofuranosidases, able to hydrolyse hemicellulose.