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Journal Article

Functional metagenomics reveals an overlooked diversity and novel features of soil-derived bacterial phosphatases and phytases.


Böhning,  M.
Department of Molecular Biology, MPI for Biophysical Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Villamizar, G. A. C., Nacke, H., Böhning, M., Herz, K., & Daniel, R. (2019). Functional metagenomics reveals an overlooked diversity and novel features of soil-derived bacterial phosphatases and phytases. mBio, 10(1): e01966-18. doi:10.1128/mBio.01966-18.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-3216-C
Phosphatases, including phytases, play a major role in cell metabolism, phosphorus cycle, biotechnology, and pathogenic processes. Nevertheless, their discovery by functional metagenomics is challenging. Here, soil metagenomic libraries were successfully screened for genes encoding phosphatase activity. In this context, we report the largest number and diversity of phosphatase genes derived from functional metagenome analysis. Two of the detected gene products carry domains which have never been associated with phosphatase activity before. One of these domains, the SNARE-associated domain DedA, harbors a so-far-overlooked motif present in numerous bacterial SNARE-associated proteins. Our analysis revealed a previously unreported phytase activity of the alkaline phosphatase and sulfatase superfamily (cl23718) and of purple acid phosphatases from nonvegetal origin. This suggests that the classical concept comprising four classes of phytases should be modified and indicates high performance of our screening method for retrieving novel types of phosphatases/phytases hidden in metagenomes of complex environments.

IMPORTANCE Phosphorus (P) is a key element involved in numerous cellular processes and essential to meet global food demand. Phosphatases play a major role in cell metabolism and contribute to control the release of P from phosphorylated organic compounds, including phytate. Apart from the relationship with pathogenesis and the enormous economic relevance, phosphatases/phytases are also important for reduction of phosphorus pollution. Almost all known functional phosphatases/phytases are derived from cultured individual microorganisms. We demonstrate here for the first time the potential of functional metagenomics to exploit the phosphatase/phytase pools hidden in environmental soil samples. The recovered diversity of phosphatases/phytases comprises new types and proteins exhibiting largely unknown characteristics, demonstrating the potential of the screening method for retrieving novel target enzymes. The insights gained into the unknown diversity of genes involved in the P cycle highlight the power of function-based metagenomic screening strategies to study Earth's phosphatase pools.