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Title: Bioinformatic analysis of biotechnologically important microbial communities
Author: Jones, Katy June
ISNI:       0000 0004 7653 5570
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2018
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Difficulties associated with the study of microbial communities, such as low proportions of cultivable species, have been addressed in recent years with the advent of a range of sequencing technologies and bioinformatic tools. This is enabling previously unexplored communities to be characterised and utilised in a range of biotechnology applications. In this thesis bioinformatic methods were applied to two datasets of biotechnological interest: microbial communities found living with the oil-producing alga Botryococcus braunii and microbial communities in acid mine drainage (AMD). B. braunii is of high interest to the biofuel industry due to its ability to produce high amounts of oils, in the form of hydrocarbons. However, a number of factors, including low growth rates, have prevented its cultivation on an industrial scale. Studies show B. braunii lives in a consortium with numerous bacteria which may influence its growth. This thesis reports both whole genome analysis and 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis to gain a greater understanding of the B. braunii bacterial consortium. Bacteria have been identified, some of which had not previously been documented as living with B. braunii, and evidence is presented for ways in which they may influence growth of the alga, including B-vitamin synthesis and secretion systems. AMD is a worldwide problem, polluting the environment and negatively impacting on human health. This by-product of the mining industry is a problem in the South West of England, where disused metalliferous mines are now a source of AMD. Bioremediation of AMD is an active area of research; sulphur-reducing bacteria and other bacteria which can remove toxic metals from AMD can be utilised for this purpose. Identifying bacteria and archaea that are able to thrive in AMD and which also have these bioremediation properties is therefore of great importance. Metagenomic sequencing has been carried out on the microbial community living in AMD sediment at the Wheal Maid tailings lagoon near Penryn in Cornwall. From these data have been identified a diverse range of bacteria and archaea present at both the sediment surface level and at depth, including microorganisms closely related to taxa reported from metalliferous mines on other continents. Evidence has been found of sulphur-reducing bacteria and of pathways for various other bioremediation-linked processes.
Supervisor: Aves, Stephen ; Studholme, David ; Love, John ; Van der Giezen, Mark Sponsor: BBSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Botryococcus braunii ; Acid mine drainage ; Bioinformatics ; Microbial communities ; Bioremediation ; Biofuels