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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Renewable Product Technology Research » Research » Research Project #439228

Research Project: Antimicrobials for Biorefining and Agricultural Applications

Location: Renewable Product Technology Research

Project Number: 5010-41000-191-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Sep 24, 2020
End Date: Sep 23, 2025

The broad goal of this project is to develop improved antimicrobial technologies that can be used in agricultural and biorefining industries. Technologies being investigated in this project not only target important agricultural problems, but they will result in the development of new value-added products made using renewable plant-based materials. We work closely with industrial collaborators, stakeholders, and customers to ensure that these goals are compatible with market needs and will strengthen available antimicrobial technologies, improve sustainable agriculture, and provide economic support to rural communities. Over the next 5 years, we will focus on the following objectives: Objective 1: Develop technologies for production of small molecule antimicrobial agents and antibiotic adjuvants that enhance the activity of existing antibacterial agents. Objective 2: Utilize alternative antimicrobial strategies for control of agricultural pathogens and bacterial contamination in biorefineries. Sub-Objective 2.1: Develop effective production and delivery systems for phage endolysins that can be utilized as novel antimicrobials. Sub-Objective 2.2: Identify and express new bacteriocins for control of biorefining contaminants and animal pathogens. Sub-Objective 2.3: Utilize genetically modified A. pullulans strains to generate novel liamocin structures and determine if these antimicrobial agents have the potential to be used for treatment of mastitis. Sub-objective 2.4: Conversion of food waste into microbial protein for food applications. Objective 3: Resolve existing biocatalytic process issues to enable commercial production of novel biopolymers and oligomers that deliver alternative antimicrobial agents.

Antibiotics are perhaps one of the most significant medical breakthroughs of the last century, but emerging resistance represents a significant global threat to both the economy and health of humans and livestock. In addition, antibiotics are often used to control microbial contamination in biorefining processes. However, there is growing consensus that antibiotic use should be limited in biorefining and agricultural processes. It is therefore of critical importance that new antibiotic therapies and alternative antimicrobial agents are developed to combat this problem. This work will include continued efforts for commercialization of modified tunicamycins, which enhance the antibacterial activity of beta-lactam antibiotics, and thereby reduce the use of penicillins in agricultural applications. This research will also examine other uncharacterized products that can be used to augment the antibacterial and antifungal efficiency of existing antimicrobial agents. Alternative antimicrobial strategies will focus primarily on the use of microbial oils, bacterial hydrolases, phage endolysins, and antimicrobial peptides (e.g., bacteriocins) to control bacterial contamination in commercial biorefineries and pathogens that infect either plants or animals. Finally, genetically modified glucansucrase enzymes will be used to produce novel biopolymers and oligomers that can be utilized for numerous pharmaceutical, agricultural, and food applications. These efforts will concentrate on methods to optimize production of a unique non-reducing trisaccharide, called isomelezitose, that has been shown to stabilize proteins during desiccation and may be useful in improving the effectiveness of protein-based antimicrobials. Accomplishing these objectives will help overcome significant technical challenges for the development of new and improved antimicrobials. Most importantly, it will lead to better agricultural and biorefining practices by minimizing the reliance on antibiotics, which ultimately benefits both producers and everyday consumers.