This study was conducted to isolate, partially purify and characterize keratinolytic microbes and their enzymes for commercial exploitation. A feather degrading bacterial strain was isolated from soil where poultry feathers were dumped by the poultry farms as a waste product. The isolated bacteria grew well at 37°C and the pH of 7.5. This isolate showed maximum feather degrading activity at 37°C. The enzyme activity could be detected in the temperature range of 30 to 37°C. Keratinolytic activity was detected during growth of microbes and complete degradation of keratin was achieved. The proteolytic character of crude enzymes was assessed using azo-casein as substrate. Crude keratinase was extracted and purified by salt precipitation and dialysis. The organism was pigment producing, rod-shaped, endospore forming, catalase positive and Gram negative bacteria. Fermentation of sugars, SIM test, indole production test, citrate test, nitrate reduction test, MR test, VP test, starch and gelatin hydrolysis test were also done. The isolated bacteria produced green pigment during its growth and the media turned greenish. Phenotypic characterization carried out in laboratory showed that this Gram negative bacterium might belonged to Bacillus or Alteromonas genus. The cell free supernatant had feather hydrolyzing activity. Therefore, it can be said that it was an extracellular protease, that is, keratinase enzyme. This keratinolytic isolate could be a potential candidate for degradation and utilization of feathers. It might also be an efficient method for the production of microbial enzymes and metabolites.
Key words: Alteromonas, Bacillus, Keratin, poultry waste, feather.
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