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Scientists Use Microorganism to Fabricate Functional Bacterial Cellulose in situ

Jan 28, 2019     Email"> PrintText Size

Bacterial cellulose (BC) is a cellulose material produced by microbial fermentation with a unique porous network structure. Due to the advantages of high crystallinity, high specific surface area, etc., functionalized BC has application prospects in many fields, such as chemical sensing, biological imaging, ultraviolet shielding, oil adsorption, fuel cells, biomedical materials.  

At present, BC is often functionalized with physical coating or chemical modification. Physical coating can provide a mild modification condition, but functional moieties potentially suffer from shedding. Chemically modified materials are difficult to implement industrial-scale production, due to their poor performance and serious environmental pollution. 

Recently, a research team led by Prof. XIAN Mo and ZHANG Haibo from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), developed a new method for bacterial cellulose functionalization.  

BC with unnatural characteristic fluorescent functionality was obtained through in situ fermentation of Komagataeibacter sucrofermentans (K. sucrofermentans, a microorganism that produces BC) using 6-carboxyfluorescein-modified glucose (6CF- Glc, a modified glucose molecule that has fluorescence) as a substrate (Figure 1). 

The method verified the feasibility of in situ synthesis of functional materials by microbial fermentation, achieved the microbial synthesis of fluorescent functional cellulose materials and successfully extended the synthetic biology to the field of material functionalization.  

The excellent properties of the functional materials were analyzed by various methods, and were compared with that of cellulose obtained by traditional modification methods.  

The results showed that the new method had the advantages of environmental protection, low cost, controllable and uniform distribution of functional moieties, solving the bottleneck problem in the synthesis and performance of functional materials, and it was expected to achieve the chiral modification of functional molecules on specific molecular sites.  

This work provides not only new insights and ideas for the biosynthesis of functional BC materials, but also a new perspective for the in situ synthesis of other functional materials by microorganisms. 

The related findings were published in Nature Communications. The research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences Youth Promotion Association, the Hainan Provincial Key Research and Development Program and the Shandong Taishan Climbing Program. 


Figure.1 Synthesis of 6CF-BC based on an in situ microbial fermentation method. Glucose (Glc) was modified with 6CF, and the 6CF-Glc was used as a carbon source for K. sucrofermentans fermentation to obtain 6CF-BC through microbial metabolic pathways. (Image by GAO Minghong) 

(Editor: LI Yuan)


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