The urban plan of Palermo (Sicily, Italy) has evolved throughout Punic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, and Norman ages until it stabilized within the borders that correspond to the current historic center. During the 2012 to 2013 excavation campaign, new remains of the Arab settlement, directly implanted above the structures of the Roman age, were found. The materials investigated in this study derived from the so-called Survey No 3, which consists of a rock cavity of subcylindrical shape covered with calcarenite blocks: it was probably used to dispose of garbage during the Arabic age and its content, derived from daily activities, included grape seeds, scales and bones of fish, small animal bones, and charcoals. Radiocarbon dating confirmed the medieval origin of this site. The composition of the bacterial community was characterized through a culture-dependent and a culture-independent approach. Culturable bacteria were isolated under aerobic and anaerobic conditions and the total bacterial community was characterized through metagenomic sequencing. Bacterial isolates were tested for the production of compounds with antibiotic activity: a Streptomyces strain, whose genome was sequenced, was of particular interest because of its inhibitory activity, which was due to the Type I polyketide aureothin. Moreover, all strains were tested for the production of secreted proteases, with those belonging to the genus Nocardioides having the most active enzymes. Finally, protocols commonly used for ancient DNA studies were applied to evaluate the antiquity of isolated bacterial strains. Altogether these results show how paleomicrobiology might represent an innovative and unexplored source of novel biodiversity and new biotechnological tools. IMPORTANCE One of the goals of paleomicrobiology is the characterization of the microbial community present in archaeological sites. These analyses can usually provide valuable information about past events, such as occurrence of human and animal infectious diseases, ancient human activities, and environmental changes. However, in this work, investigations about the composition of the bacterial community of an ancient soil sample (harvested in Palermo, Italy) were carried out aiming to screen ancient culturable strains with biotechnological potential, such as the ability to produce bioactive molecules and secreted hydrolytic enzymes. Besides showing the biotechnological relevance of paleomicrobiology, this work reports a case of germination of putatively ancient bacterial spores recovered from soil rather than extreme environments. Moreover, in the case of spore-forming species, these results raise questions about the accuracy of techniques usually applied to estimate antiquity of DNA, as they could lead to its underestimation.

Novel Sources of Biodiversity and Biomolecules from Bacteria Isolated from a High Middle Ages Soil Sample in Palermo (Sicily, Italy) / Vassallo, Alberto; Modi, Alessandra; Quagliariello, Andrea; Bacci, Giovanni; Faddetta, Teresa; Gallo, Michele; Provenzano, Aldesia; La Barbera, Andrea; Lombardo, Giovanna; Maggini, Valentina; Firenzuoli, Fabio; Zaccaroni, Marco; Gallo, Giuseppe; Caramelli, David; Aleo Nero, Carla; Baldi, Franco; Fani, Renato; Palumbo Piccionello, Antonio; Pucciarelli, Sandra; Puglia, Anna Maria; Sineo, Luca. - In: MICROBIOLOGY SPECTRUM. - ISSN 2165-0497. - ELETTRONICO. - (2023), pp. 1-15. [10.1128/spectrum.04374-22]

Novel Sources of Biodiversity and Biomolecules from Bacteria Isolated from a High Middle Ages Soil Sample in Palermo (Sicily, Italy)

Vassallo, Alberto;Modi, Alessandra;Bacci, Giovanni;Provenzano, Aldesia;La Barbera, Andrea;Maggini, Valentina;Firenzuoli, Fabio;Zaccaroni, Marco;Caramelli, David;Fani, Renato;Sineo, Luca
2023

Abstract

The urban plan of Palermo (Sicily, Italy) has evolved throughout Punic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, and Norman ages until it stabilized within the borders that correspond to the current historic center. During the 2012 to 2013 excavation campaign, new remains of the Arab settlement, directly implanted above the structures of the Roman age, were found. The materials investigated in this study derived from the so-called Survey No 3, which consists of a rock cavity of subcylindrical shape covered with calcarenite blocks: it was probably used to dispose of garbage during the Arabic age and its content, derived from daily activities, included grape seeds, scales and bones of fish, small animal bones, and charcoals. Radiocarbon dating confirmed the medieval origin of this site. The composition of the bacterial community was characterized through a culture-dependent and a culture-independent approach. Culturable bacteria were isolated under aerobic and anaerobic conditions and the total bacterial community was characterized through metagenomic sequencing. Bacterial isolates were tested for the production of compounds with antibiotic activity: a Streptomyces strain, whose genome was sequenced, was of particular interest because of its inhibitory activity, which was due to the Type I polyketide aureothin. Moreover, all strains were tested for the production of secreted proteases, with those belonging to the genus Nocardioides having the most active enzymes. Finally, protocols commonly used for ancient DNA studies were applied to evaluate the antiquity of isolated bacterial strains. Altogether these results show how paleomicrobiology might represent an innovative and unexplored source of novel biodiversity and new biotechnological tools. IMPORTANCE One of the goals of paleomicrobiology is the characterization of the microbial community present in archaeological sites. These analyses can usually provide valuable information about past events, such as occurrence of human and animal infectious diseases, ancient human activities, and environmental changes. However, in this work, investigations about the composition of the bacterial community of an ancient soil sample (harvested in Palermo, Italy) were carried out aiming to screen ancient culturable strains with biotechnological potential, such as the ability to produce bioactive molecules and secreted hydrolytic enzymes. Besides showing the biotechnological relevance of paleomicrobiology, this work reports a case of germination of putatively ancient bacterial spores recovered from soil rather than extreme environments. Moreover, in the case of spore-forming species, these results raise questions about the accuracy of techniques usually applied to estimate antiquity of DNA, as they could lead to its underestimation.
2023
1
15
Vassallo, Alberto; Modi, Alessandra; Quagliariello, Andrea; Bacci, Giovanni; Faddetta, Teresa; Gallo, Michele; Provenzano, Aldesia; La Barbera, Andrea; Lombardo, Giovanna; Maggini, Valentina; Firenzuoli, Fabio; Zaccaroni, Marco; Gallo, Giuseppe; Caramelli, David; Aleo Nero, Carla; Baldi, Franco; Fani, Renato; Palumbo Piccionello, Antonio; Pucciarelli, Sandra; Puglia, Anna Maria; Sineo, Luca
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