Methylobacteriaare vital for processing single-carbon compounds like methanol, methylamine, and the greenhouse gas methane. They play a central role in the carbon and nitrogen cycle. While many researchers are studying the bacteria, their full functionality is still unknown– but it’s becoming more complete, thanks to a recent publication of six genomes of different strains of the bacteria, chosen for their adaptations to different plant communities and geographic diversity. The DOE Joint Genome Institute sequenced the organisms, in a process initiated as part of the Community Sequencing Program in 2005.
The strain Methylobacterium extorquens BJ001T was found in poplar trees, a feedstock candidate for the next generations of biofuels. (Photo courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratories)Researchers from France, Switzerland, and the USA, including those from the JGI, published the genomes in the September 2012 issue of Journal of Bacteriology. The diverse genomes widely ranged in chromosome size and plasmid content. Five of the six organisms contained genes used in photosynthesis. Overall, the study will shed light on the differences in these important organisms. The authors wrote, “This will define both core- and strain-specific features of Methylobacterium strains and provide new insights into the metabolic flexibility of these facultative methylotrophs and into the modes of bacterial adaptation to specific ecological niches.”