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Wiegel, Juergen K.

Dr. Juergen K. Wiegel

Department of Microbiology
University of Georgia
Athens, GA

Research Interests:
Anaerobic thermophiles: Ongoing research includes the isolation and classification of new strains exhibiting special features of industrial or academic interest. Thermophilic anaerobes have a potential for use in industrial applications due to several features, including their thermostable enzymes. We have described several new thermophilic anaerobes, some of which have been patented, e.g. for ethanol production, others constitute a new group of exciting extremophiles, e.g., the alkali-thermophilic anaerobes, which grow optimally above pH 9.0 and 65°C with doubling times as short as 10 min. Previously it was assumed that such conditions are too hostile for optimal growth of bacteria. Our physiological studies include answering nutritional questions, regulation studies and the isolation of enzymes (e.g. xylosidases/xylanases) of industrial and academic interest. The ecological studies deal with distribution and diversity of anaerobic thermophiles in both moderate and extreme environments. To be able to manipulate our strains for industrial applications we are developing genetic systems for thermophilic clostridia and related bacteria.

Anaerobic degradation of chlorinated aromatic compounds: Our research focuses on the sequential degradation of chlorinated phenols and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) by anaerobes in mesobiotic sediments from polluted sources. We study the effects of environmental parameters e.g., temperature and pH on the interactions within the participating bacterial community in an environment. We isolate and characterize the various organisms to elucidate the degradative pathways and isolate and characterize novel key enzymes such as the hydroxybenzoate decarboxylases and the aryldehalogenase. The work on PCB dehalogenation is geared toward obtaining data for designing bioremediation processes as well as isolating PCB-dechlorinating anaerobes, organisms which have never been isolated, so far.