Bioprospecting surfactants produced by Pseudomonas spp. isolated from soil for potential application in biotechnology

  • Kamaluddeen Kabir

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Bacteria produce a range of surface-active compounds called biosurfactants that reduce the surface tension of liquid and exhibit different oil-water behaviours. These are used in various biotechnological applications including agriculture, cosmetics, medical and food. A recent study has predicted a limit to bacterial surface tension-reducing ability. If this limit exists, it has strong negative consequences in surveys for more active compounds. In this work, the aim is to (i) investigate this prediction more robustly by using chemical media and (ii) study the diversity amongst the best-performing surfactants produced by Pseudomonas spp. with the intention of finding novel surfactants that could be used in different biotechnological applications. A total of 251 Pseudomonas spp. were isolated from soil. Strains were first screened for liquid surface tension-reducing ability (LSTRA) using qualitative drop-collapse assay before quantitative surface tension measurement. Of the 58 LSTRA strains, only 46 significantly reduced the surface tension of sterile media. Individual Distribution Identification (IDI) analysis was used to determine the predicted limit for surfactant activity in KB* and M9Glu media, and results were found to be in agreement with earlier studies. To investigate the chemical structural diversity amongst the best performing surfactants, a collection of 25 key strains producing a limited range of very low surface tension in liquid culture media (~24 – 26 mN/m) were examined. Initial phenotypic characterisation including biochemical, metabolic profiling and 16S rDNA sequencing confirmed strains were a diverse collection of Pseudomonas spp.. A series of behaviour assays including emulsion formation, foam stabilisation and oil displacement assays to investigate behavioural diversity among surfactants expressed by the key strains were then undertaken. For the oil displacement, diesel, mineral, vegetable, and used lubricating oils were tested with the underlying aqueous layer containing 0 or 200 mM NaCl at pH 6.0 or 8.0 to reflect a range of biotechnological applications and conditions. Analysis of variance of the emulsion indices, foam stabilisation and oil displacement data showed significant difference in surfactant behaviour among the key surfactant-expressing strains (P < 0.001). Moreover, Hierarchical Cluster Analysis (HCA) was used to produce a constellation dendrogram in which isolates were grouped according to similarities in phenotype and surfactant behaviour. Critically, this resulted in more groups (≥ 5 groups) than could be explained by statistically significant differences in mean surface tensions (previously determined by ANOVA and Tukey-Kramer HSD, alpha = 0.05). These findings provide strong evidence that the key strains were expressing structurally more than one type of surfactant with differing air-water and oil-water behaviours. Similarly, in vitro surfactant characterisation within a range of pH and salt concentrations confirmed diversity among strains (P < 0.001). Investigating surfactant potential by a two-way behaviour cluster dendrogram resulted in more diversity among oil types than the conditions used. These findings indicate that bioprospecting surfactants by screening only the more active compounds is likely to reveal a range of functionalities.
    Date of Award18 Aug 2017
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Abertay University
    SponsorsTertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) & Umaru Musa Yar’adua University Katsina
    SupervisorAndrew Spiers (Supervisor) & Yusuf Deeni (Supervisor)


    • Surfactants
    • Pseudomonas spp
    • Limit
    • Diversity
    • Biotechnology
    • Surface tension
    • LSTRA
    • Bioprospecting

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