In silico identification of bacterial seaweed-degrading bioplastic producers

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There is an urgent need to replace petroleum-based plastic with bio-based and biodegradable alternatives. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are attractive prospective replacements that exhibit desirable mechanical properties and are recyclable and biodegradable in terrestrial and marine environments. However, the production costs today still limit the economic sustainability of the PHA industry. Seaweed cultivation represents an opportunity for carbon capture, while also supplying a sustainable photosynthetic feedstock for PHA production. We mined existing gene and protein databases to identify bacteria able to grow and produce PHAs using seaweed-derived carbohydrates as substrates. There were no significant relationships between the genes involved in the deconstruction of algae polysaccharides and PHA production, with poor to negative correlations and diffused clustering suggesting evolutionary compartmentalism. We identified 2 987 bacterial candidates spanning 40 taxonomic families predominantly within Alphaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria and Burkholderiales with enriched seaweed-degrading capacity that also harbour PHA synthesis potential. These included highly promising candidates with specialist and generalist specificities, including Alteromonas, Aquisphaera, Azotobacter, Bacillus, Caulobacter, Cellvibrionaceae, Duganella, Janthinobacterium, Massilia, Oxalobacteraceae, Parvularcula, Pirellulaceae, Pseudomonas, Rhizobacter, Rhodanobacter, Simiduia, Sphingobium, Sphingomonadaceae, Sphingomonas, Stieleria, Vibrio and Xanthomonas. In this enriched subset, the family-level densities of genes targeting green macroalgae polysaccharides were considerably higher ( n=231.6±68.5) than enzymes targeting brown ( n=65.34±13.12) and red ( n=30.5±10.72) polysaccharides. Within these organisms, an abundance of FabG genes was observed, suggesting that the fatty acid de novo synthesis pathway supplies (R)-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA or 3-hydroxybutyryl-CoA from core metabolic processes and is the predominant mechanism of PHA production in these organisms. Our results facilitate extending seaweed biomass valorization in the context of consolidated biorefining for the production of bioplastics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number000866
Number of pages15
JournalMicrobial Genomics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors


  • Bacteria/genetics
  • Carbohydrates
  • Carbon/metabolism
  • Coenzyme A/metabolism
  • Fatty Acids/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Petroleum/metabolism
  • Plastics/metabolism
  • Polyhydroxyalkanoates/chemistry
  • Prospective Studies
  • Seaweed

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