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Trends Biotechnol. 2005 Oct;23(10):497-506.

Exploring the microbial biodegradation and biotransformation gene pool.

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Centro Nacional de Biotecnología CSIC, Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


Similar to the New World explorers of the 16th and 17th century, microbiologists today find themselves at the edge of unknown territory. It is estimated that only 0.1-1% of microorganisms can be cultivated using current techniques; the vastness of microbial lifestyles remains to be explored. Because the microbial metagenome is the largest reservoir of genes that determine enzymatic reactions, new techniques are being developed to identify the genes that underlie many valuable chemical biotransformations carried out by microbes, particularly in pathways for biodegradation of recalcitrant and xenobiotic molecules. Our knowledge of catabolic routes built on research during the past 40 years is a solid basis from which to venture on to the little-explored pathways that might exist in nature. However, it is clear that the vastness of information to be obtained requires astute experimental strategies for finding novel reactions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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