Two new bacterial species that produce enzymes which could have application for biotech industry have been discovered in the Arctic region by a senior scientist from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB).
The bacteria which can grow at 2 degrees Celsius and produce enzymes such as protease and lipase, were found by S. Shivaji, Director-Grade-Scientist of CCMB. He was one of the four Indian scientists who recently returned from an expedition to the Arctic region in May-June to conduct field studies that included climate change and diversity of cyanobacteria (blue green algae).
Dr. Shivaji, who went twice each to the Antarctica and the Arctic, told The Hindu here on Friday that one of the species was tentatively named Oceania sphera arcticum, belonging to the genus Oceania sphera. The other bacterium was yet to be named. He said one of the major objectives of the latest scientific expedition was to collect samples for establishing pure cultures of cyanobacteria from the Arctic.
Cyanobacteria produce anti-oxidants and unsaturated fatty acids that could be used as nutrient supplements.
He said the Arctic cynobacteria produce a lot of extra polysaccharides (EPS) which make them tolerant to cold temperatures and could be used as a model system to understand the role of EPS in cold adaptation.
Referring to the use of lipase and protease in detergents in washing machines, he said both the enzymes from mesophilic bacteria (those that grow between 15 and 40 deg C) have optimum activity around 37 deg C. But in the ‘cold-loving bacteria' from the Arctic the same activity could be found at around 20 deg C. Thus, the higher activity of the enzymes at lower temperature could help in energy conservation in washing machines.
One of the main reasons to study the Arctic bacteria was to establish their identity and also to find out whether they were geographically confined, or universal in their distribution.
Dr. Shivaji, who has been working on the bacteria of the Antarctica for 25 years, said thousands of species had so far identified on the icy continent, and 40 new ones discovered. Three genes required for low temperature growth were also identified in the bacteria from the Antarctica.