Lonnie van Zyl

Position: Senior Officer


Contact: vanzyllj@gmail.com

Research projects: Engineering of G. thermoglucosidasius as a robust platform for thermophilic ethanologenesis / Namib Desert metavirome studies / PharmaSea

The first project i was involved in at IMBM was a project done in collaboration with an industry partner based in the United Kingdom (TMO). As part of the team working on this project, my role was to characterize and express novel pyruvate decarboxylases in the TMO production strain for improved ethanol production. We have also characterized a bacteriophage which infects this organism and can lead to stuck or failed fermentations. We therefore developed stains resistant to infection.

More recently we have begun investigating bacteriophages from Namibian Desert soils, using a next generation sequence approach, and what they may have to offer in terms of novel proteins for research, diagnostics or in identifying interesting phage-host pairs which can be commercially employed.

I also work with the PharmaSea team on identification and expression of secondary metabolite pathways in bacteria isolated from marine sponges which produce novel antimicrobial, anti fungal and anti inflammatory compounds.


Goldschmidt, G. K., M. N. Gardner, L. J. van Zyl, S. M. Deane, and D. E. Rawlings. 2003. A promiscuous, broad-host-range, IncQ-like plasmid isolated from an industrial strain of Acidithiobacillus caldus, its accessory DNA and potential to participate in the horizontal gene pool of biomining and other bacteria, p. 1249-1259.In M. Tsezos, A. Hatzikioseyian, and E. Remoundaki (ed.), Biohydrometallurgy: a sustainable technology in evolution. Selected papers from the 15th Int. Biohydrometall. Symp., Athens, Greece, 14 to 19 September 2003. National Technical University of Athens Press, Athens, Greece.

Van Zyl, L. J., S. M. Deane and D. E. Rawlings. 2003. Analysis of the Mobilization Region of the Broad-Host-Range IncQ-Like Plasmid pTC-F14 and Its Ability To Interact with a Related Plasmid, pTF-FC2. J. Bacteriol. 185: 6104-6111.

Coram, N. J., L. J. van Zyl, S.M. Deane and D. E. Rawlings. 2005. Isolation, Sequence Analysis, and Comparison of Two Plasmids (28 and 29 Kilobases) from the Biomining Bacterium Leptospirillum ferrooxidans ATCC 49879. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 71: 7515-7522.

Van Zyl, L. J., S. M. Deane, L. A. Louw and D. E. Rawlings. 2008. Presence of a Family of Plasmids (29 to 65 Kilobases) with a 26-Kilobase Common Region in Different Strains of the Sulfur-Oxidizing Bacterium Acidithiobacillus caldusAppl. Environ. Microbiol. 74: 4300-4308.

Van Zyl, L. J. and D. E. Rawlings . 2008. Construction of arsB and tetH Mutants of the Sulfur-Oxidizing Bacterium, Acidithiobacillus caldus by Marker Exchange. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. AEM.01235-08v1.

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. 27:656-668

Taylor, MP, van Zyl, L, Tuffin, IM, Leak, DJ, Cowan, DA. 2011. Genetic tool development underpins recent advances in thermophilic whole-cell biocatalysts. Microb. Biotechnol. 4:438-448.

Taylor, MP, Van Zyl, L, Tuffin, M, Cowan, DA. 2012. Extremophiles and biotechnology: How far have we come?  Ch. In Extremophiles: Microbiology and Biotechnology. Antinori, R., ed.  Caister Academic press.

van Zyl, LJ, Taylor, MP, Eley, K, Tuffin, M, Cowan, D. 2014. Engineering pyruvate decarboxylase-mediated ethanol production in the thermophilic host Geobacillus thermoglucosidasiusAppl. Micro. Biotechnol. 98:1247-1259

Adriaenssens, EM., van Zyl, L., De Maayer, P., Rubagotti, E., Rybicki, E., Tuffin, M., Cowan, DA. 2014. Metagenomic analysis of the viral community in Namib Desert hypoliths. Environ. Microbiol. DOI 10.1111/1462-2920.12528

Zablocki, O., van Zyl, L., Adriaenssens, EM., Rubagotti, E., Tuffin, M., Cary, Craig., Cowan, D. 2014. High diversity of tailed phages, eukaryotic viruses and virophage-like elements in the metaviromes of Antarctic soil. Appl. Environ. Microbiol.  DOI:10.1128/AEM.01525-14

van Zyl, LJ., Schubert, W-D., Tuffin, IM., Cowan, D. 2014. Structure and Functional Characterization of Pyruvate decarboxylase from Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus. BMC Struct. Biol. DOI:10.1186/s12900-014-0021-1

Zablocki, O., van Zyl, L., Adriaenssens, EM., Rubagotti, E., Tuffin, M., Craig, C., Cowan, D. 2014. Niche-dependent genetic diversity in Antarctic metaviromes. Bacteriophage. DOI:10.4161/21597081.2014.980125

Olonade I, van Zyl LJ, Trindade MI. 2015. Draft genome sequence of marine isolates Thalassomonas viridans and Thalassomonas actiniarum. Genome A. doi:10.1128/genomeA.00297-15

Ohlhoff CW, Kirby BM, van Zyl LJ, Mutepfa DLR, Casanueva A, Huddy RJ, Bauer R, Cowan DA, Tuffin M. 2015. An unusual feruloyl esterase belonging to family VIII esterases and displaying a broad substrate range. J. Mol. Cat. B: Enzymatic. 118: 79-88

van Zyl LJ, Sunda F, Taylor MP, Cowan DA, Trindade MI. 2015. Identification and characterization of a novel Geobacillus thermoglucosidasius bacteriophage, GVE3. Arch. Virol. doi:10.?1007/?s00705-015-2497-9

Trindade M, van Zyl L, Navarro-Fernández J, Abd Elrazak A. 2015. Function-guided and targeted metagenomics as a tool to tap into marine natural product diversity for the discovery and production of drug candidates. Frontiers in Microbiology. 6:890. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00890

van Zyl LJ, Taylor MP, Trindade M. 2015. Engineering resistance to phage GVE3 in Geobacillus thermoglucosidasius. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. doi: 10.1007/s00253-015-7109-9

Adriaenssens EM, van Zyl LJ, Cowan DA, Trindade M. 2016. Metaviromics of Namib Desert Salt Pans: A Novel Lineage of Haloarchaeal Salterproviruses and a Rich Source of ssDNA Viruses. Viruses. doi:10.3390/v8010014

van Zyl LJ, Matobole R, Biteghe FAN, Klein T, Kirby B, Trindade M. 2016. Draft Genome Sequences of Three Bacillus Species from South African Marine Sponges. Genome A. doi:10.1128/genomeA.00143-16

van Zyl LJ, Nemavhulani S, Cass J, Cowan DA, Trindade M. 2016. Three novel bacteriophages isolated from the East African Rift Valley soda lakes. Virol. J. doi:  10.1186/s12985-016-0656-6

Hesse U, van Heusden P, Kirby BM, Olonade I, van Zyl LJ, Trindade M. 2017. Virome assembly and annotation: a surprise in the Namib Desert. Front. Microbiol. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.00013

Matobole RM, Van Zyl LJ, Parker-Nance S, Davies-Coleman MT, Trindade M. 2017. Antibacterial activities of bacteria isolated from the marine sponges Isodictya compressa and Higginsia bidentifera collected from Algoa Bay, South Africa. Marine Drugs.  doi: 10.3390/md15020047

Who am I?: I am originally from Namibia. I came to South Africa in 1997 to start my tertiary education at the University of Stellenbosch. I obtained a BSc, 1st class BSc (Hons) and then a 1st class MSc degree. After completion of my MSc degree in 2003, I continued working at the University for my then supervisor Professor Douglas Rawlings till mid 2008 when I made the move to join the IMBM group.

When I’m not in the lab I like to play golf, fish and I’m a bit of a computer hardware enthusiast


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