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Biotechnology

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Biodiversity

Nature - an infinite source of activities
Microbial diversity existing in nature is extremely vast. Most of the biotechnological applications have been made possible with the help of microbial cells or their products. Microorganisms inhabiting extreme environments, the so called extremophiles, have been of interest both for understanding the mechanisms used by them for survival as well as for exploiting their potential for applications requiring extreme conditions. Over the years, diverse extremophilic microbial species have been isolated at Department of Biotechnology from samples of alkaline soda lakes in East African Rift Valley, hot springs in Iceland, and saline environments of Altiplano region of Bolivia. A number of novel microorganisms belonging to genera Bacillus, Dietzia, Brevibacterium, Halomonas, Amphibacillus etc have been identified. The studies on biodiversity have been performed in collaboration with universities in the respective countries. Some interesting hydrolytic enzymes from extremophiles have been investigated. One of the halophilic bacteria is being used for the production of biopolyester, polyhydroxybutyrate and compatible solutes. In 2007, yet another novel Halomonas specie producing polyhydroxyalkanoate was identified. Some other novel microorganisms isolated from alkaline environments have been screened for the presence of monooxygenase activities.

Anaerobic microorganisms comprise a group that to a large extent has been overlooked. These organisms play an important role in many cycles of elements in nature, however they are poorly understood. The work of isolating new organisms with special enzyme producing properties continues. The isolation is based on the microdroplet technique which allows many more organisms to be isolated and identified. Sulphate reducing bacteria are important in the sulphur cycle and also with regard to heavy metals in environment. Several new species have been isolated e.g. some new Clostridium species.

Degradation of aromatic structures is often complicated for microorganisms. A group of very capable organisms is that of white rot fungi. Isolation and characterization of such organisms from the tropical regions of Bolivia has given some very interesting producers of oxidative enzymes including peroxidases and laccase.