Lignocellulose-degrading microbial communities in landfill sites represent a repository of unexplored biomass-degrading diversity

Emma Ransom-Jones, Alan J. McCarthy, Sam Haldenby, James Doonan, James E. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


The microbial conversion of lignocellulosic biomass for biofuel production represents a renewable alternative to fossil fuels. However, the discovery of new microbial enzymes with high activity is critical for improving biomass conversion processes. While attempts to identify superior lignocellulose-degrading enzymes have focused predominantly on the animal gut, biomass-degrading communities in landfill sites represent an unexplored resource of hydrolytic enzymes for biomass conversion. Here, to address the paucity of information on biomass-degrading microbial diversity beyond the gastrointestinal tract, cellulose (cotton) "baits" were incubated in landfill leachate microcosms to enrich the landfill cellulolytic microbial community for taxonomic and functional characterization. Metagenome and 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing demonstrated the dominance of Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Spirochaetes, and Fibrobacteres in the landfill cellulolytic community. Functional metagenome analysis revealed 8,371 carbohydrate active enzymes (CAZymes) belonging to 244 CAZyme families. In addition to observing biomass-degrading enzymes of anaerobic bacterial "cellulosome" systems of members of the Firmicutes, we report the first detection of the Fibrobacter cellulase system and the Bacteroidetes polysaccharide utilization locus (PUL) in landfill sites. These data provide evidence for the presence of multiple mechanisms of biomass degradation in the landfill microbiome and highlight the extraordinary functional diversity of landfill microorganisms as a rich source of biomass-degrading enzymes of potential biotechnological significance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00300-17
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


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