Although organic matter may accumulate sometimes (e.g. lignocellulose in peat bog), most natural biodegradation processes are completed until full mineralization. Such transformations are often achieved by the concerted action of communities of interacting microbes, involving different species each performing specific tasks. These interactions can give rise to novel "community-intrinsic" properties, through e.g. activation of so-called "silent genetic pathways" or synergistic interplay between microbial activities and functions. Here we studied the microbial community-based degradation of keratin, a recalcitrant biological material, by four soil isolates, which have previously been shown to display synergistic interactions during biofilm formation; Stenotrophomonas rhizophila, Xanthomonas retroflexus, Microbacterium oxydans and Paenibacillus amylolyticus. We observed enhanced keratin weight loss in cultures with X. retroflexus, both in dual and four-species co-cultures, as compared to expected keratin degradation by X. retroflexus alone. Additional community intrinsic properties included accelerated keratin degradation rates and increased biofilm formation on keratin particles. Comparison of secretome profiles of X. retroflexus mono-cultures to co-cultures revealed that certain proteases (e.g. serine protease S08) were significantly more abundant in mono-cultures, whereas co-cultures had an increased abundance of proteins related to maintaining the redox environment, e.g. glutathione peroxidase. Hence, one of the mechanisms related to the community intrinsic properties, leading to enhanced degradation from co-cultures, might be related to a switch from sulfitolytic to proteolytic functions between mono- and co-cultures, respectively.
Nasipuri, P., Herschend, J., Brejnrod, A. D., Madsen, J. S., Espersen, R., Svensson, B., ... Sørensen, S. J. (2020). Community-intrinsic properties enhance keratin degradation from bacterial consortia. PLOS ONE, 15(1), [e0228108]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228108