Abstract Background Cellulolytic microorganisms are considered a key player in the degradation of plant biomass in various environments. These microorganisms can be isolated from various environments, such as soils, the insect gut, the mammalian rumen and oceans. The Red Sea exhibits a unique environment in terms of presenting a high seawater temperature, high salinity, low nutrient levels and high biodiversity. However, there is little information regarding cellulase genes in the Red Sea environment. This study aimed to examine whether the Red Sea can be a resource for the bioprospecting of microbial cellulases by isolating cellulase-producing microorganisms from the Red Sea environment and characterizing cellulase genes. Results Three bacterial strains were successfully isolated from the plankton fraction and the surface of seagrass. The isolated strains were identified as Bacillus paralicheniformis and showed strong cellulase activity. These results suggested that these three isolates secreted active cellulases. By whole genome sequencing, we found 10 cellulase genes from the three isolates. We compared the expression of these cellulase genes under cellulase-inducing and non-inducing conditions and found that most of the cellulase genes were generally upregulated during cellulolysis in the isolates. Our operon structure analysis also showed that cellulase genes form operons with genes involved in various kinds of cellular reactions, such as protein metabolism, which suggests the existence of crosstalk between cellulolysis and other metabolic pathways in the bacterial isolates. These results suggest that multiple cellulases are playing important roles in cellulolysis. Conclusions Our study reports the isolation and characterization of cellulase-producing bacteria from the Red Sea. Our whole-genome sequencing classified our three isolates as Bacillus paralicheniformis, and we revealed the presence of ten cellulase orthologues in each of three isolates’ genomes. Our comparative expression analysis also identified that most of the cellulase genes were upregulated under the inducing conditions in general. Although cellulases have been roughly classified into three enzyme groups of beta-glucosidase, endo-β-1,4-glucanase and exoglucanase, these findings suggest the importance to consider microbial cellulolysis as a more complex reaction with various kinds of cellulase enzymes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)