Life Scientists in Freiberg Discover a New Bacterial Species
Scientists belonging to Prof. Dr. Michael Schlömann's environmental microbiology working group at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg discovered and characterized and a new bacterial species. The bacterium was isolated from a soil sample and could now be classified as a new species in the scope of a strain description. According to the place of its isolation and characterization, the organism was named after the old-Latin designation of the city of Freiberg and christened Sphingopyxis fribergensis.
Dr. Michel Oelschlägel, who discovered the species during his doctoral thesis in 2011 and then classified it later, took a closer look at this new species, along with other researchers working at the Institute of Biosciences of TU Bergakademie Freiberg and the Center for Biotechnology in Bielefeld. "This species is capable of decomposing interesting aromatic pollutants. Many of these metabolic pathways are very interesting to biotechnology." The most interesting feature of the new species is that it can be used to produce so-called enzymes which can help to synthetize products for the pharmaceutical or cosmetics industry. "Enzymes are proteins which are able to catalyze selected chemical reactions," Oelschlägel explains. "Existing chemical processes can now be made much more environmentally friendly and easier with these little helpers. As opposed to many chemical processes, these enzymatic reactions are often very accurate, they do not need high temperatures, and hardly any byproducts will occur," Oelschlägel continues to enumerate the advantages.
The new species has already made its way into a patent held by the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, a patent which is concerned exactly with the abovementioned processes. In addition, the species is also a part of the current research projects which the TU Bergakademie Freiberg is running with industrial partners. Apart from other objectives, the organism is to be genetically modified so it will be able to synthetize so-called phenylacetic acids from sustainable raw material sources. The acids are applied, for example, to manufacture pain killers, antibiotics, virostatic agents or similar compounds, but also in the perfume and aroma industries. Sphingopyxis fribergensis provides good starting conditions to this end and already disposes of the right enzymes to catalyze many of these steps. "We are very lucky to have stumbled over such an organism. Besides, I am very glad that we have succeeded in describing a new bacterial species for the very first time here in Freiberg," says Oelschlägel.
On June 2, the new bacterial species and the pertinent strain description were accepted for publication in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology and are thus acknowledged. The so-called type strain (the initial strain of a new species) of Sphingopyxis fribergensis has also been deposited at the Deutsche Sammlung für Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen (DSMZ, translation: German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures) and at the Belgian Strain Collection (BCCM/LMG). It is thus the first acknowledged species description of a microorganism at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg.
Link to the online publication: https://katalog.ub.tu-freiberg.de/Record/0013729803
More information on the microbiology working group is available at http://tu-freiberg.de/fakultaet2/bio/environmental-microbiology
Author: Dr. rer. nat. Michel Oelschlägel