Washington Post Story on DOE-JGI-Sequenced Microbe That Degrades Multiple Forms of Biomass


Today’s Washington Post, on page B4, carries a story on University of Maryland professors Ronald Weiner and Steven Hutchinson who have been studying a Chesapeake Bay microbe called Saccharophagus degradans 2-40, that contains more carbohydrate-degrading enzymes than any other microbe analyzed so far. The carbohydrates it is known to degrade include agar, chitin, alginic acid, carrageenan, cellulose, B-glucan, laminarin, pectin, pullulan, starch, and xylan. All of these can be found in plant material and point to a potential role for this microbe in degradation of plant biomass as a first step to Bioenergy production (including ethanol) from the sugars in biomass. S. degradans 2-40 also has been seen to digest newspaper and magazine pages, materials presently recycled and often discarded in landfills. (If it can handle used office Xerox paper, energy independence will be ours in no time!) The DOE-Joint Genome Institute determined the complete genome sequence (the parts list ) of S. degradans 2-40 in 2006 and a manuscript describing the work is in press. The Washington Post story also noted that Zymetis, a spin-off company from the University of Maryland, will try to exploit S. degradans 2-40 for bioethanol generation highlighting the interest in the private sector in microbial Bioenergy production leveraging DOE investments in genome sequencing.