This project supports a cooperative research Dr. by Jurgen Wiegel, Department of Microbiology at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA and Noha Mesbah, Department of Biochemistry at Suez Canal University, Ismailia, Egypt. They plan to isolate and identify novel microorganisms, known as extremophiles that grow at the present-day physiochemical boundaries for growth, and to conduct detailed characterization of biotechnologically useful enzymes from these extremophiles. The selected enzymes will allow industries, such as the detergent, pulp, paper, and chemical industries, to improve and modify their products using natural resources and ecologically sound methods. The aims of the project include: (1) Isolation and identification of aerobic and anaerobic extremophiles; halophilic alkaliphiles and alkalithermophiles from the lakes of the Wadi An Natrun in Egypt; microorganisms harboring specialized enzymes with unique and novel properties of great potential for industrial processes will be enriched for using selective methods (2) Screening the isolates for enzyme production. Enzymes to be screened for include proteases, lipases, esterases, cellulases and xylanases, (3) Large scale culture and purification of extremozymes from isolates, (4) Characterization of promising novel enzymes, with a focus on enzyme stability, activity and substrate specificity under extreme conditions, and (5) Heterologous expression of selected promising enzymes for possible modification and mass production.
Intellectual Merit: The project will allow the isolation and characterization of halo/alkaliphilic and alkali/thermophilic prokaryotes from extreme habitats in Egypt in collaboration with counterparts in that country, and using these organisms in bioprospecting for industrially useful enzymes. The research is to lead to the isolation and identification of novel microorganisms, extremophiles, which grow at the present-day physiochemical boundaries for growth. In addition, it will lead to the identification and detailed characterization of biotechnologically useful enzymes from these extremophiles, which can allow different industries, particularly the detergent / pulp / paper / chemical industries, present locally in Egypt and the United States, to improve and modify their products using natural resources and ecologically sound methods.
Broader Impact: In addition to natural product discovery of benefit to society, and the likely improvement in the environmental output of the affected industries, broader impacts would include the training of graduate and undergraduate scientists in the US and Egypt in modern and interdisciplinary microbial, molecular and biochemical methods.