ISOLATION AND CHARACTERIZATION OF AGARASE PRODUCING BACTERIA FROM TROPICAL WATERS OF PUERTO RICO
Natalia Maldonado, Edwin Vazquez.
University of Puerto Rico in Cayey, Cayey, PR.
There are currently several agarase-producing bacterial species that have been identified, mainly from marine water but some from freshwater and soil. Agarase is an enzyme responsible for the hydrolysis of agar as their primary source of carbon. Some agarases have been isolated and used in various research applications while others have been used for agar-derived oligosaccharide production. We report on the first isolated agarase-producing bacteria from tropical marine waters in Puerto Rico. Samples were obtained from the south coast and plated in marine agar. Colonies that formed pits were purified by streaking at least twice in the same medium and incubated at 30˚C. Isolates were characterized by pigment formation and morphological characteristics using Gram staining, followed by PCR amplification and sequencing of the 16s rRNA gene. At least 3 distinct bacterial species have been isolated belonging to the Rheineimera, Psychrobacter and Vibrio genera. We are currently isolating and purifying the enzymes to characterize them in terms of their specific activity and molecular weight. This will help us understand the relationship of these bacteria to other agarase producers isolated from other habitats.