ISSN 2285-1364, ISSN CD-ROM 2285-5521, ISSN ONLINE 2285-1372, ISSN-L 2285-1364

Studies on biodegradation of tanned leather

Published in Scientific Bulletin. Series F. Biotechnologies, Vol. XVI
Written by Florentina ISRAEL-ROMING, Evelina GHERGHINA, Gabriela LUŢĂ, Daniela BĂLAN, Alina POPA, Roxana ŞTEFAN, Carmen CÎMPEANU, Călina Petruţa CORNEA

Wastes from the leather industry as well as insoluble and hard-to-degrade animal proteins are currently eliminated by incineration, method with high ecological disadvantages. In order to avoid these inconvenients, microbiological and/or enzymatic methods are examined. Leather degradation was performed in two trials: one enzymatic-assisted and the other microbial-assisted. Enzymatic hydrolysis of collagen, the representative protein of leather, was performed with collagenase type IA, with six enzyme concentrations, for up to 10 days. The hydrolysis yield was evaluated by free amino acids determination. Microbial hydrolysis involved 35 bacterial strains belonging to various genera (Streptomyces, Bacillus, Pseudomonas, Serratia etc), screened for their ability of growth in minimal medium containing bovine leather, ovine leather or wool as unique carbon or nitrogen sources. Three of these strains: Bacillus licheniformis ATCC 14580, Pseudomonas fluorescens ATCC 13525 and a new bacterial isolate, designated BN7, were able to grow in the presence of treated leather or wool, visible differences being observed after 10 days of incubation. The best results were obtained with the strain BN7, the level of free amino acids and of the extracellular proteins (as a measure of organic substrate degradation) was rather high (2.22 µmoles amino acids and 61 µg protein respectively). Amino acids release and extracellular protein synthesis indicates both collagenase and keratinase activity. The degradation of tanned leather was examined microscopically: significant disorganization of leather fibres was observed.

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