Metagenomic analysis of a keratin-degrading bacterial consortium provides insight into the keratinolytic mechanisms

Dingrong Kang, Yuhong Huang, Joseph Nesme, Jakob Herschend, Samuel Jacquiod, Witold Kot, Lars Hestbjerg Hansen, Lene Lange, Søren J. Sørensen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Keratin is an insoluble fibrous protein from natural environments, which can be recycled to value-added products by keratinolytic microorganisms. A microbial consortium with efficient keratinolytic activity was previously enriched from soil, but the genetic basis behind its remarkable degradation properties was not investigated yet. To identify the metabolic pathways involved in keratinolysis and clarify the observed synergy among community members, shotgun metagenomic sequencing was performed to reconstruct metagenome-assembled genomes. More than 90% genera of the enriched bacterial consortium was affiliated to Chryseobacterium, Stenotrophomonas, and Pseudomonas. Metabolic potential and putative keratinases were predicted from the metagenomic annotation, providing the genetic basis of keratin degradation. Furthermore, metabolic pathways associated with keratinolytic processes such as amino acid metabolism, disulfide reduction and urea cycle were investigated from seven high-quality metagenome-assembled genomes, revealing the potential metabolic cooperation related to keratin degradation. This knowledge deepens the understanding of microbial keratinolytic mechanisms at play in a complex community, pinpointing the significance of synergistic interactions, which could be further used to optimize industrial keratin degradation processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number143281
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Microbial community
  • Keratinases
  • Metagenome-assembled genomes
  • Metabolic pathways
  • Metabolic cooperation


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