Isolation and Characterization of a Thermostable Cellulase from Bacillus licheniformis Strain Vic Isolated from Geothermal Wells in the Kenyan Rift Valley

Irene K. Kiio1, *, Mulaa F. Jackim1, Wamalwa B. Munyali2, Edward K. Muge1
1 Department of Biochemistry University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya
2 Department of Chemistry University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya

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© Kiio et al. ; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Biochemistry University of Nairobi, P.O BOX 30197 - 00100 Nairobi, Kenya;


Cellulolytic microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria are responsible for much of the cellulose degradation in soils. Despite the vast number of cellulase producers, there is a deficiency of microorganisms that can produce significant amount of the three components of a cellulase system. i.e. CMCases, exoglucanases and β-glucosidases to efficiently degrade cellulose to fermentable products.

Soil samples were collected from two sites of the Kenyan Rift valley; Hell’s gate National Park and a geothermal well in Eburru hill at depths of 155 m, 156 m and 157 m. Isolation of cellulolytic bacteria was carried out using minimal media supplemented with 1% CMC. Isolates obtained were characterized using both morphological and molecular methods. A quantitative cellulolytic test was carried out to select the isolate with the highest specific activity. Additionally the cell-free supernatant was used for functional studies to determine the isolate’s cellulase system components, optimum temperature, pH and time stability.

Phylogenetic analyses indicated that all isolates associated mainly with members of the Bacillus licheniformis. All isolates were capable of utilizing CMC, avicel and Cellobiose as their sole carbon sources. Isolate 3 from a depth of 156 m in the well was identified as Bacillus licheniformis strain vic and selected for further functional studies. This isolate was found to bear the three enzyme components of a cellulase system. A cell free extract was noted to hydrolysecellobiose, Avicel and CMC with enzyme specific activities of 0.46878 U/mg, 0.18784 U/mg and 0.13571 U/mg respectively. Optimum temperature for activity measured over 60 minutes was found to be 60oC with relatively high activity at both 70oC and 80oC. The optimum pH at the predetermined optimum temperature was found to be pH 5. The crude enzyme extract was stable for eight hours of incubation at 60oC and pH 5 retaining 92.2% of its activity. This makes B.licheniformis strain vic a quite attractive isolate for potential application in industries.

Keywords: Cellulolytic, CMCase, Exoglucanase, Thermostable, β-Glucosidase.