Professor Marla Trindade

Assoc. Prof. Marla Trindade

DST/NRF SARChI, Research Chair in Microbial Genomics

Director of IMBM: Institute for Microbial Biotechnology & Metagenomics

Research Projects:

My research interests lie in the microbial ecology of various environments, including thermophilic, psychrophilic, acidophilic, haloalkalophilic, marine and freshwater lakes. I am also investigating the microbial communities associated with important South African plants, including sorghum and fynbos. The understanding of microorganisms in their environment creates a natural link with biotechnology. Processes, mechanisms and products associated with microbial survival in an environment can be exploited for white, green and blue biotechnology. I therefore have several diverse interests in the application of microorganisms in biotechnology.





  1. D. A. Cowan. I. M. Tuffin. F. T. Robb (2010) ‘‘Sequence First, Ask Questions Later’’: The Impact of Next Generation-Omics on the Discovery of Novel Microbial and Lipid Hydrocarbon Metabolism. In: Timmis, Kenneth N. (Ed.) Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology, Springer Heidelberg, Vol 4, pp. 3367-3374.
  2. Meiring, T. L., Mulako, I., Tuffin, M., Meyer, Q., Cowan, DA. 2010. Retrieval of Full Length Functional Genes using Subtractive Hybridization Magnetic Bead Capture. Ch. 20 In: Metagenomics: Mthods and Protocols, Vol. 668 of Methods in Molecular Biology. W. Streit and R. Daniel (Ed.): Humana Press Inc. Totowa NJ, USA. pp. 287-298.
  3. Meiring, T., Bauer, R., Scheepers, I., Ohlhoff, C., Tuffin, M., Cowan, D. 2011. Metagenomics and beyond: current approaches and integration with complementary technologies. Ch. In Metagenomics: Current approaches and integration with complementary technologies. Marco, D., ed. Caister Acad. Press, Publ. pp. 1-26.
  4. Taylor, MP, Van Zyl, L, Tuffin, M, Cowan, DA. Extremophiles and biotechnology: How far have we come?  Ch. In Extremophiles: Microbiology and Biotechnology. Antinori, R., ed.  Horizon Press. Accepted.
  5. Mutondo, M., Huddy, R., Bauer, R., Tuffin, M., Cowan, D. 2011. Metagenomic gene discovery. Ch. 15 In Metagenomics and its applications in agriculture, biomedicine and Environmental studies. RW Li, Ed. In Press.
  6. Kirby, B., Le Roess-Hill, M., Cary, S., Burton, S., Tuffin, M., Cowan, D. 2011. Actinobacterial diversity associated with Antarctic Dry Valley mineral soils. Ch. 13 In Handbook of Molecular Microbial Ecology II: Metagenomics in different habitats. Fras de Bruijn, Ed., John Wiley & ons, New Jersey. In Press.
  7. Taylor, M., Ramond, J-B., Tuffin, S., Burton, S., Eley, K., Cowan, D. 2011. Mechanisms and Applications of Microbial Stress Tolerance. Ch. 6 In: Microbial stress tolerance: from genomics to biofuels. CABI Publ. In Press.
  8. Kirby, BM, Easton, S, Tuffin, IM, Cowan, DA. (2011) Bacterial Diversity in Polar Habitats. Miller, RV, Whyte, LG., Eds. ASM Press.  Accepted for Publication.
  9. Kirby, BM, Barnard, D, Tuffin, IM, Cowan, DA. Ecological distribution of microorganisms in terrestrial, psychrophilic habitats. In: Extremophiles Handbook. In Press
  10. Cowan, D., Tuffin, M., Mulako, I., Cass, J. Life in Terrestrial Hydrothermal Environments. Ch. in Life in Extremes, Bell, E., Ed., CABI Press. Accepted for publication.



  1. Trindade, M., V. Abratt, S. Reid. 2003. Induction of sucrose-utilising genes from Bifidobacterium lactis by sucrose and raffinose. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 69: 24-32.
  2. Tuffin, M., P. de Groot, S. Deane & D. Rawlings. 2004. Multiple sets of arsenic resistance genes are present within highly arsenic resistant industrial strains of the biomining bacterium, Acidithiobacillus caldus. International Congress Series. 1275: 165-172.
  3. Tuffin, M., P. de Groot, S. Deane & D. Rawlings. 2005. An unusual Tn21-like transposon containing an ars operon is present in highly arsenic resistant strains of the biomining bacterium Acidithiobacillus caldus. Microbiology. 151: 3027-3039.
  4. Tuffin, M., S. Hector, S. Deane & D. Rawlings. 2006. The resistance determinants of a highly arsenic resistant strain of Leptospirillum ferriphilum isolated from a commercial biooxidation tank. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 72: 2247-2253.
  5. Kotze, A., M. Tuffin, S. Deane & D. Rawlings. 2006. Isolation of the chromosomal arsenic resistance genes from Acidithiobacillus caldus and enhanced arsenic resistance on conjugal transfer of ars genes located on transposon TnAtcArs. Microbiology. 152: 3551–3560.
  6. Taylor, M., Tuffin, M., Burton, S., Eley, K., Cowan, D. 2008. Microbial responses to solvent and alcohol stress. Biotechnol. J. Nov;3(11):1388-97.
  7. Taylor MP, Eley KL, Martin S, Tuffin MI, Burton SG, Cowan DA. 2009. Thermophilic ethanologenesis: future prospects for second-generation bioethanol production. Trends Biotechnol. 27:398-405.
  8. Tuffin, M., Anderson, A., Heath, C., Cowan, D. 2009. Metagenomic gene discovery: How far have we moved into novel sequence space? Biotechnology Journal. 4(12): 1671-1683.
  9. Cowan, D., Tuffin, M. 2009. Capturing global metabolism. Nature biotechnology. 27(12): 1132-1133.
  10. Staniland, S., Coppock, M., Tuffin, M., van Zyl, L., Roychoudhury, A. N., Cowan, D. 2010. Cobalt uptake and resistance to trace metals in Comamonas testosteroni isolated from a heavy-metal contaminated site in the Zambian Copperbelt. Geomicrobiology Journal. 27(8): 656 – 668.
  11. Musingarimi, W., Tuffin, M., Cowan, D. 2010. Characterisation of the Arsenic Resistance Genes in Bacillus sp. UWC Isolated from Maturing Fly Ash-Acid Mine Drainage Neutralized Solids. South African Journal of Science. 106: 59-63.
  12. Casanueva, A., Tuffin, M., Cary, C., Cowan, C. 2010. Molecular adaptations to psychrophily: the impact of “omic” technologies. Trends in Microbiology. 18: 374-381.
  13. Barnard, D. Casanueva, A., Tuffin, M., Cowan, D. 2010. Extremophiles in biofuel synthesis. Environmental Technology. 31(8): 871-888.
  14. Cowan, A., Pointing, S., Stevens, M., Cary, C., Stomeo, F., Tuffin, M. 2011. Distribution and abiotic influences on hypolithic microbial communities in an Antarctic Dry Valley. Polar Microbiology. 34:307–311.
  15. Taylor, MP, Van Zyl, L, Tuffin, M, Leak, D., Cowan, DA. 2011. Genetic tool development underpins recent advances in thermophilic whole cell biocatalysts. Microbial Biotechnology. Feb 10. [Epub ahead of print].
  16. Nel, A., Tuffin, M., Sewell, T., Cowan, D. A unique aliphatic amidase from a psychrophiic and haloalkaliphilic Nesterenkonia isolate. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Accepted.
  17. Rohr, LM, Mashaphu, N, Sheridan, C, Burton, SG, Tuffin, M., and Cowan, DA. Seasonal shifts of the microbial community structure in a winery waste-impacted wetland soil.  Trans. Roy. Soc. SA. Accepted.
  18. Khan, N, Tuffin, IM, Carey, SC, Cowan, DA. 2011. Hypolithic microbial communities of quartz rocks from Miers Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Polar Biology, 34(11), 1657-1668.
  19. Cowan, DA, Sohm, JA, Makhalanyane, TP, Capone, DG, Green, TGA and Cary, SC. Tuffin, M.  Hypolithic communities: an important nitrogen source in Antarctic desert soils, Envir Microbiol. Accepted.
  20. Hu XP, Heath C, Taylor MP, Tuffin M, Cowan DA. 2012. Isolation and characterisation of a novel, cold-active alkaliphilic esterase from Antarctic desert soil. Extremophiles 16(1):79-86.


Who Am I?

I obtained my PhD in Microbiology in 2003 from the University of Cape Town (UCT), where I studied “Carbohydrate metabolism in Bifidobacterium”. For the following 3 years, I took up a post-doc position in Doug Rawlings’s Biomining Laboratory at the University of Stellenbosch, where I studied the molecular biology of heavy metal resistance in biomining organisms. I joined IMBM in 2006 as a post-doc, and was appointed Deputy Director in 2008 and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biotechnology.

I co-ordinate the BTN 213 Food and Environmental Microbiology; BTN 312 Industrial Biotechnology; and BTN 706 Extremophiles courses at the undergraduate and Honours levels. I additionally run a short course (Microbial Ecology and Bioremediation) in the Biotechnology Masters at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Moçambique..

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