Sustainable energy technologies demand the use of renewable sources of energy and materials, such as biomass. Remediation of toxic wastes is a related problem. The recalcitrance of the aromatic heteropolymer lignin, commonly found in plant biomass, is a major challenge for its sustainable transformation to energy and biomaterials. Biological approaches for degrading lignin and xenobiotic aromatic pollutants show great promise and are effective in some recent applications. This work aims at investigating the biodegradation activity of the newly discovered Burkholderia sp. isolates in alkali lignin, aromatic hydrocarbons, and n- or iso-alkanes under aerobic condition. Results show that no degradation was observed for alkali lignin inoculated with B. xenovorans. However, the novel B. xenovorans strains were able to grow and utilize benzoate (1 mg mL–1) as the sole carbon source in a minimal medium (M9) at relatively fast rate. HPLC analysis showed the presence of catabolic intermediates that were further used by the bacteria for growth. A 1H NMR analysis confirmed the presence of catechol as the central intermediate having a yield of 31.21 mg after hours of incubation. Furthermore, the new endophytic B. phytofirmans isolates also showed growth on M9 plates containing isooctane as the sole carbon source. More work is needed to determine the mechanism of degradation in isooctane, a recalcitrant branched alkane, by the novel B. phytofirmans. Overall, this study reveals the degradation potential of the new Burkholderia sp. isolates, in which the provided information can be harnessed for advanced applications and biotransformation strategies.
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Thesis advisor: Warren, Jeffrey J.
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