African Journal of

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Biotechnol.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1684-5315
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJB
  • Start Year: 2002
  • Published Articles: 12269

Full Length Research Paper

Pitfalls using tributyrin agar screening to detect lipolytic activity in metagenomic studies

Derek Litthauer*, Nathlee S. Abbai, Lizelle A. Piater and Esta van Heerden
Metagenomics Platform, Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, University of the Free State, P. O. Box 339, Bloemfontein, 9300, South Africa.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 18 May 2010
  •  Published: 31 July 2010


The metagenomics approach is an efficient method for obtaining novel biocatalysts and useful genes from uncultured microorganisms within diverse environments. In this study, we constructed a metagenomic library using a South African deep mine biofilm sample. The library was screened for lipolytic activity using LB Tributyrin (TLB). Although we were able to identify 3 diverse esterase enzymes, we found that 70% of the obtained sequence data revealed the presence of enzymes and genes completely unrelated to that of lipolytic enzymes thereby highlighting the limitation of screening with TLB.


Key words: False positives, tributyrin, lipolytic activity, metagenome.