Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Improved bacteria for pollution control.

Project Acronym: BACSIN

Title of project: Bacterial abiotic cellular stress and survival improvement network

Research area: Improved microbes for the environment - microbial gene expression under condition of stress

Contract No: 211684

EU Contribution: 5 530 090 EURO

Start date: 01-06-2008

Duration: 48 Months


This project aims to improve the effectiveness of bacteria used in the treatment and prevention of environmental pollution. At present such environmental applications are hindered by a lack of knowledge concerning the effects of stresses on cellular activity and in particular abiotic stresses that occur on site where they are used or where natural populations utilise pollutants. Such stresses may include desiccation or nutrient starvation as well as problems resulting from pollutants themselves, such as toxicity. Where microbial cultures are produced to treat specific pollutants problems may also arise during strain preparation and formulation. This project will investigate several inter-related areas of research and technology aiming to overcome such problems and result in improved microbial performance. The first area of investigation covers genome-wide catabolic and stress expression in a set of various pollutant degrading bacteria (the BACSINs) aiming to identify key cellular factors and regulatory networks that determine the interrelationships between stress-survival and pollutant catabolism. The second area of investigations covers stress- resistance, survival and activity of BACSINs in natural polluted environments. These studies include investigation of possible effects of added bacteria on native communities. The third area is the study of original microbial communities at contaminated sites. Lastly, the project focuses on BACSIN formulations in order to produce optimally active cell cultures for environmental applications.

Expected Impact

The commercial use of bacteria to degrade harmful complex toxic molecules, bioremediation, is widely practiced in treatment of oil spills, abandoned chemical works, contaminated land and many other similar problems. Results of such treatments are variable reflecting the interaction between the bacteria used and the chemicals in the particular environment. By focusing on such interactions this project should have a significant effect in improving the understanding of the factors involved, as well as detailing the underlying biochemistry, bacterial metabolism, regulation and growth characteristics. The further development of the results concerning specific organisms targeted at specific pollutants by the industrial partners should have an impact on the overall range of options available for bioremediation.

Expected Results

The project is expected to generate a knowledge base of bacterial gene expression and related physiological activity with particular relevance to biodegradation of pollutants under stress conditions. This should allow rational and predictable application of bacteria in cleaning polluted environments. It will identify the effect of environmental boundary conditions on behaviour of both individual bacterial cells and of populations within in situ mixed microbial communities to permit rational optimization of processes. Bacterial formulations should be developed from low value waste materials to enable large-scale environmental inoculation procedures to be adopted and to demonstrate the directed application of such formulations to achieve targeted removal, treatment and prevention of recurring and notoriously difficult pollutants. Information accumulated in reaching these objectives will include general methods development and standardization and detailed knowledge of genetic behaviour in response to environmental stresses with particular relevance to catabolic networks linked to traits governing environmental survival and adaptation. This will include results from studies on environmental behaviour of pure BACSINs with particular relevance to catabolic activity, as well as details of BACSIN survival and activity in the phytosphere, as well as suggesting methods for rational control of native communities or consortia. Molecular diagnostics for natural catabolic, stress and survival functions will be produced and models will be made available for interpretative and predictive simulation of catabolic activity under environmental stress.

Website of


Coordinator: Jan Roelof Van Der Meer,

Organisation Universite de Lausanne, Switzerland,


Bio-Iliberis Research and Development, Spain,

Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Spain,

Earth Tech Cz Sro, Czech Republic,

Goeteborgs Universitet, Sweden,

Helmholtz-Zentrum fuer Infektionsforschung Gmbh, Germany,

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium,

Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie Van Wetenschappen , Netherlands,

Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet, Sweden,

Technische Universitaet Carolo-Wilhelmina Zu Braunschweig , Germany,

Helmholtz-Zentrum Fuer Umweltforschung Gmbh , Germany,

Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Netherlands,

Wageningen Universiteit , Netherlands,

EU Joint Research Centre , Italy,

Belair Biotech Ltd, Switzerland,

Ecoengineering, Hungary,