Main content area

An integrative study on biologically recovered polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) and simultaneous assessment of gut microbiome in yellow mealworm

Ong, Su Yean, Kho, Hui-Pheng, Riedel, Sebastian L., Kim, Seok-Won, Gan, Chee-Yuen, Taylor, Todd D., Sudesh, Kumar
Journal of biotechnology 2017
Cupriavidus necator, Tenebrio molitor, animal fats and oils, biodegradability, biomass, carbon, energy, feces, intestinal microorganisms, larvae, metagenomics, molecular weight, palm oils, plastics, polyhydroxyalkanoates, ribosomal RNA, sodium hydroxide, solvents, washing
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are produced in microbes as a source of carbon and energy storage. They are biodegradable and have properties similar to synthetic plastics, which make them an interesting alternative to petroleum-based plastics. In this study, a refined method of recovering PHA from Cupriavidus necator biomass was proposed by incorporating the use of the yellow mealworm (the larval phase of the mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor) as partial purification machinery, followed by washing of the fecal pellets with distilled water and sodium hydroxide. The PHA contents of the cells used in this study were 55wt% (produced from palm olein) and 60 wt% (produced from waste animal fats). The treatment of distilled water and NaOH further increased the purity of PHA to 94%. In parallel, analysis of the 16S rRNA metagenomic sequencing of the mealworm gut microbiome has revealed remarkable changes in the bacterial diversity, especially between the mealworms fed with cells produced from palm olein and waste animal fats. This biological recovery of PHA from cells is an attempt to move towards a green and sustainable process with the aim of reducing the use of harmful solvents and strong chemicals during polymer purification. The results obtained show that – purities of >90%, without a reduction in the molecular weight, can be obtained through this integrative biological recovery approach. In addition, this study has successfully shown that the cells, regardless of their origins, were readily consumed by the mealworms, and there is a correlation between the feed type and the mealworm gut microbiome.