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  • Jennifer L Edwards
    University of Liverpool
  • Darren L Smith
    University of Liverpool
  • John Connolly
    University of Liverpool
  • James E McDonald
    University of Liverpool
  • Michael J Cox
    University of Liverpool
  • Ian Joint
    Plymouth Marine Laboratory
  • Clive Edwards
    University of Liverpool
  • Alan J McCarthy
    University of Liverpool

Polysaccharides are an important source of organic carbon in the marine environment and degradation of the insoluble and globally abundant cellulose is a major component of the marine carbon cycle. Although a number of species of cultured bacteria are known to degrade crystalline cellulose, little is known of the polysaccharide hydrolases expressed by cellulose-degrading microbial communities, particularly in the marine environment. Next generation 454 Pyrosequencing was applied to analyze the microbial community that colonizes and degrades insoluble polysaccharides in situ in the Irish Sea. The bioinformatics tool MG-RAST was used to examine the randomly sampled data for taxonomic markers and functional genes, and showed that the community was dominated by members of the Gammaproteobacteria and Bacteroidetes. Furthermore, the identification of 211 gene sequences matched to a custom-made database comprising the members of nine glycoside hydrolase families revealed an extensive repertoire of functional genes predicted to be involved in cellulose utilization. This demonstrates that the use of an in situ cellulose baiting method yielded a marine microbial metagenome considerably enriched in functional genes involved in polysaccharide degradation. The research reported here is the first designed to specifically address the bacterial communities that colonize and degrade cellulose in the marine environment and to evaluate the glycoside hydrolase (cellulase and chitinase) gene repertoire of that community, in the absence of the biases associated with PCR-based molecular techniques.


  • Journal Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-84
Number of pages14
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes
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