Influence of microbial diversity and biofilm formation on degradation mechanisms of microplastic particles in the environment

Collaborative Research Centre 1357 Microplastics: C04

From 01/2019 to 12/2022

Principal Investigator: Gerhard Rambold, Marcus A. Horn, Martin Obst
Staff: Gerasimos Gkoutselis

Microorganisms (MOs, prokaryotes and fungi) play a central role in the mineralisation of microplastics (MP) in the environment and represent a huge unrecognised genetic and metabolic degradation potential. It is therefore the aim of C04 to identify new MP-degrading MOs, elucidate their MP degradation pathways, and map key enzyme-encoding genes of MP degradation and biological degradation mechanisms in the environment. Pure culture screening, degradation experiments with environmental samples and identification of key organisms, stable isotope sampling with 13C-labelled MP to track MP-13C flux and obtain metagenomes of 13C-MP degrading MOs, directed isolation, genomics and transcriptomics of pure cultures and environmental samples, and gene expression studies will provide enzyme-encoding genes and MOs involved in MP degradation. Accelerated evolution will be used to obtain highly efficient MP-degrading MOs. Furthermore, it will be investigated whether biofilms, through UV-absorbing properties, can inhibit UV-dependent plastic oxidation and how microbial colonisation affects the mechanical stability as well as the surface properties of plastics. The knowledge gained here is central to SFB 1357 and will make a significant contribution to understanding the role of microorganisms in the fate of MP in the environment, enable the identification of microbial 'hot spots' of MP degrading MOs in the environment, and provide a basis for the development of MP degradation-accelerating additives and environmentally friendly plastics.

Homepage: https://www.sfb-mikroplastik.uni-bayreuth.de/de/index.html

List of publications of this Project

Gkoutselis, GM; Rohrbach, S; Harjes, J; Obst, M; Brachmann, A; Horn, M; Rambold, G: Microplastics accumulate fungal pathogens in terrestrial ecosystems, Scientific Reports (2021), doi:10.1038/s41598-021-92405-7 -- Details
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