INDUSTRIAL BIOTECHNOLOGY / Biofuels and Industrial Biotechnology
Development of biotechnological products and processes for agriculture and industry, microbial inoculants, biofertilizers and biocontrol agents; microbes and enzymes for improvement of bioenergy production processes
Description of Research
The Industrial Biotechnology Group focuses on the development of biotechnological products and processes to be used in agriculture and industry. The research projects currently in progress regard (i) the study of bacteria associated to crops such as soybean, maize, wheat and barley, focusing mainly on endophytic bacteria with clear beneficial properties in term of plant growth promotion through mechanisms such as N fixation, indolacetic acid production, phosphate solubilization and antagonism against microbial pathogens; (ii) the identification of plant cell wall degrading-bacteria and the heterologous expression of plant biomass degrading-enzymes to be used in processes of bioenergy production.
The interest towards endophytic bacteria is aimed at the development of inoculants suitable for use in the above mentioned crops to promote growth and to protect the plants from microbial pathogens. Bacterial endophytes are isolated from different crops, regions and agronomical conditions of Latin America and are further characterized to identify potential candidates/inoculants. This work is performed in collaboration with, and thanks to the funds and infrastructures made available by, companies in Italy and Argentina that are interested to develop and commercialize microbial inoculants.
The second part of the project focuses on the improvement of processes for the generation of bioenergy from biomasses. Production of biogas is becoming an important process worldwide, as well as an opportunity to generate energy from waste. It consists in the conversion of biological waste to biogas, mainly methane, by means of consortia of methanogenic bacteria. One of the problems in this process is the low conversion rate due to the presence in waste of complex biopolymers or substrates that are poorly degraded. Therefore, pretreatment with microbial consortia or pools of enzymes particularly efficient in depolimerization of these molecoles could increase the production of biogas. Among the enzymes suitable for this application are those that degrade the plant cell wall, such as enzymes degrading cellulose (cellulases, cellobiohydrolases and beta-glucosidases), hemicellulose (xylanases and related accessory enzymes), pectins (pectinases and polygalacturonases). The group is currently developing products and processes for conversion into biogas of waste from the paper industry in Argentina. This waste contains more than 20% of unusable short-fiber cellulose. We are currently developing heterologous expression systems to produce three cellulolytic enzymes for waste pretreatment before fermentation in anaerobic conditions and biogas production.
de Almeida Lopes, K.B., Carpentieri-Pipolo, V., Fira, D., Balatti, P.A., López, S.M.Y., Oro, T.H., Stefani Pagliosa, E., Degrassi, G. 2018. Screening of bacterial endophytes as potential biocontrol agents against soybean diseases. J Appl Microbiol Jul 6. doi: 10.1111/jam.14041
Degrassi, G., Bhardwaj, V., Battaiola, V. 2018. Heterologous expression in Pichia pastoris of bacterial cellulases for improved biogas production. Arch Chem Res Vol. 2. DOI: 10.21767/2572-4657-C1-003
Apruzzese, I., Bhardwaj, V., Degrassi, G., Bhardwaj, R.K. 2017. Biogas production from organic wastes of paper and leather industries. IOSR J Biotech Biochem (IOSR-JBB), vol 3, issue 4, 1-7
Bhardwaj, V., Degrassi, G., Bhardwaj, R.K. 2017. Bioconversion of Cellulosic Materials by the action of Microbial Cellulases. Int Res J Eng & Tech (IRJET), vol 4, issue 8
Bhardwaj, V., Degrassi, G., Bhardwaj, R.K. 2017. Microbial Pectinases and their applications in industries: A review. Int Res Eng & Tech (IRJET), vol 4, issue 8
de Almeida Lopes KB, Carpentieri-Pipolo V, Oro TH, Stefani Pagliosa E, Degrassi G. 2016. Culturable endophytic bacterial communities associated with field grown soybean. J Appl Microbiol, 120, 740-755 PubMed link