Isolates of the bacterial phylum Verrucomicrobia have in common that they are specialized to the utilization of sugars. Their abundance and activity in a large variety of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, as well as in the intestine of vertebrates, indicates that this until recently unknown group of microorganisms plays a major role in the global carbon cycle. This project calls for whole-genome sequencing of representatives of four of the six monophyletic subdivisions (Chthoniobacter flavus, Opitutus terrae, Akkermansia muciniphila, and soil isolate “Ellin514”), plus a deep evolutionary relative from the candidate phylum Lentisphaerae (Victivallis vadensis).
The Verrucomicrobia have until recently been overlooked by conventional cultivation-based approaches. The group is an excellent example of bacteria that are hardly detected by culturing but frequently found in 16S rRNA gene libraries from a wide variety of ecosystems, including aquatic and terrestrial environments as well as the mammalian gastrointestinal tract. On average, 5% of all surveyed sequences can be assigned to this phylum. During the past five years, the application of improved approaches for cultivation has yielded the isolation of several members of this phylum, now for the first time allowing for a thorough intra-phylum comparison.
The availability of a comprehensive set of genomes, which for the first time will allow for sound comparative genomic approaches to organisms from this phylum, can be expected to be of high relevance in the fields of taxonomy and evolution. Whole-genome sequencing of the proposed organisms will provide a wealth of information on their genetic potential and hence will allow for the further understanding and comparison of their metabolic capacities and interaction with their environments, including the mammalian host environment and GI tract microbiota, through comparative and functional genomics.
CSP project participants: Hauke Smidt and Willem M. de Vos (proposers, Wageningen Univ.) and Peter H. Janssen (Univ. of Melbourne).