Small investments with big returns: environmental genomic bioprospecting of microbial life

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Abstract

Microorganisms and their natural products are major drivers of ecological processes and industrial applications. Microbial bioprospecting has been critical for the advancement in various fields such as pharmaceuticals, sustainable industries, food security and bioremediation. Next generation sequencing has been paramount in the exploration of diverse environmental microbiomes. It presents a culture-independent approach to investigating hitherto uncultured taxa, resulting in the creation of massive sequence databases, which are available in the public domain. Genome mining searches available (meta)genomic data for target biosynthetic genes, and combined with the large-scale public data, this in-silico bioprospecting method presents an efficient and extensive way to uncover microbial bioproducts. Bioinformatic tools have progressed to a stage where we can recover genomes from the environment; these metagenome-assembled genomes present a way to understand the metabolic capacity of microorganisms in a physiological and ecological context. Environmental sampling been extensive across various ecological settings, including microbiomes with unique physicochemical properties that could influence the discovery of novel functions and metabolic pathways. Although in-silico methods cannot completely substitute in-vitro studies, the contextual information it provides is invaluable for understanding the ecological and taxonomic distribution of microbial genotypes and to form effective strategies for future microbial bioprospecting efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-655
Number of pages15
JournalCritical Reviews in Microbiology
Volume48
Issue number5
Early online date31 Jan 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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