About this Research Topic
The organic matter on Earth occurs mostly in the form of biopolymers, such as polysaccharides, proteins, and nucleic acids, which are the building blocks of every living organism. The most abundant biopolymers are cellulose and lignin (the main constituents of an estimated 3 trillion trees), chitin (present in fungi or arthropods), and peptidoglycan (essential for the bacterial cell wall). Plants, animals, microbes, and lysing cells in general, release a considerable quantity of biopolymers into the environment; these compounds often contain nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur, in addition to carbon, and are thus ideal heterotrophic food sources.
Although the degradation of biopolymers has received considerable attention, many gaps remain, particularly in very complex ecosystems such as soils and sediments. The metabolic versatility of the involved organisms, their ecological niches, metabolisms, syntrophic interactions, as well as thermodynamic and biogeochemical constraints on biopolymer utilization are often not well constrained. Insights into such heterotrophic organisms and communities will not only improve our understanding of the biodiversity and function of ecosystems but also of carbon and element cycling.
We invite researchers to submit articles (find article types here) broadly concerning the ecology and ecophysiology of biopolymer degradation. We are especially looking for studies investigating biopolymer degradation as a realized ecological niche and community function. This includes but is not limited to:
• Microbial degradation of biopolymers (derived from plant litter, exudates, necromass, algal blooms, animals, biofilms, etc.) in natural ecosystems or laboratory cultivations.
• Microbial ecology and ecophysiology of biopolymer-degrading (syntrophic) food webs or symbioses.
• Biochemistry and thermodynamics of biopolymer-degrading enzymes and pathways.
• Modelling of metabolisms, enzymes, pathways and thermodynamic considerations.
All submitted manuscripts need to be hypothesis driven, merely descriptive studies won’t be considered for peer-review.
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.