Using biological metaldehyde degradation for bioremediation and diagnostics

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Biology


Metaldehyde is a molluscicide used to kill slugs, thus protecting economically important crops, particularly potatoes, wheat and oil-seed rape. Following its use, metaldehyde runs off agricultural land and can accumulate in river and reservoir water, ultimately contaminating drinking water where it is recalcitrant to degradation. An EU defined maximum concentration in drinking water for this compound of 0.1 g/L has to be achieved, yet as currently operated metaldehyde passes through most water treatment works relatively untouched. Control of metaldehyde contamination is a priority issue for Water Companies in the UK (metaldehyde was responsible for 232/253 failures in water quality tests in England in 2012). There is currently no cost effective and reliable process for metaldehyde degradation. The difficult situation is exacerbated by a reliance on laborious laboratory-based chromatographic procedures required for metaldehyde measurement.
This NERC-funded CASE studentship aims to rectify this problem by developing the application of naturally occurring microbiological degradation as a new solution for metaldehyde contamination. In a second strand of the project, we will exploit biological metaldehyde degradation mechanisms to design metaldehyde biosensors, thus leading to the creation of a new approach for field-testing of metaldehyde. A student with a background in microbiology, biotechnology and/or biochemistry who is prepared to work in an interdisciplinary way will be well equipped to take on this project, which will build upon earlier findings at York with respect to biological degradation of metaldehyde. Major objectives of the project are to: (i) improve existing bacterial isolates that can degrade metaldehyde to improve their properties for drinking water treatment, (ii) characterise the enzyme system for metaldehyde degradation to inform strain improvement and develop of sensor technology, (iii) develop electronic and optical methods for metaldehyde detection using biological components as biosensors.
This project is a collaboration between the University of York (led by Dr. James Moir in the Department of Biology, with Dr. Steven Johnson, Department of Electronics as a co-supervisor) and Thames Water and the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA Science Limited). The project will involve work at the University of York, at FERA (situated just outside York) and a significant industrial placement with Thames Water (using their water treatment research facilities in London).


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/N009061/1 30/09/2016 29/03/2021
1792587 Studentship NE/N009061/1 30/09/2016 30/03/2021 Edward Fuller
Description The research project led to identification of 2 proteins responsible for metaldehyde degradation. Following from this, the project also showed activity of these enzymes in a non-host bacteria and that activity existed with just the pure enzyme.
Exploitation Route The identification and verification of metaldehyde degrading genes can be used to determine and monitor the degradative ability of soil and following from this is it possible to enchance this degradative ability. Next, the research can be used to mass produce the degradative enzyme and determine the feasibility of it being added to the water treatment cycle to reduce the concentration of the pesticide in drinking water. Finally, a biosensor using the enzyme could potentially be created, depending on the cofactors required for enzyme activity.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Electronics,Environment,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL http://N.A