Comparative Genomic Analysis Indicates that Niche Adaptation of Terrestrial Flavobacteria Is Strongly Linked to Plant Glycan Metabolism

Max Kolton, Noa Sela, Yigal Elad, Eddie Cytryn

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64 Scopus citations


Flavobacteria are important members of aquatic and terrestrial bacterial communities, displaying extreme variations in lifestyle, geographical distribution and genome size. They are ubiquitous in soil, but are often strongly enriched in the rhizosphere and phyllosphere of plants. In this study, we compared the genome of a root-associated Flavobacterium that we recently isolated, physiologically characterized and sequenced, to 14 additional Flavobacterium genomes, in order to pinpoint characteristics associated with its high abundance in the rhizosphere. Interestingly, flavobacterial genomes vary in size by approximately two-fold, with terrestrial isolates having predominantly larger genomes than those from aquatic environments. Comparative functional gene analysis revealed that terrestrial and aquatic Flavobacteria generally segregated into two distinct clades. Members of the aquatic clade had a higher ratio of peptide and protein utilization genes, whereas members of the terrestrial clade were characterized by a significantly higher abundance and diversity of genes involved in metabolism of carbohydrates such as xylose, arabinose and pectin. Interestingly, genes encoding glycoside hydrolase (GH) families GH78 and GH106, responsible for rhamnogalacturonan utilization (exclusively associated with terrestrial plant hemicelluloses), were only present in terrestrial clade genomes, suggesting adaptation of the terrestrial strains to plant-related carbohydrate metabolism. The Peptidase/GH ratio of aquatic clade Flavobacteria was significantly higher than that of terrestrial strains (1.7±0.7 and 9.7±4.7, respectively), supporting the concept that this relation can be used to infer Flavobacterium lifestyles. Collectively, our research suggests that terrestrial Flavobacteria are highly adapted to plant carbohydrate metabolism, which appears to be a key to their profusion in plant environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere76704
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
StatePublished - 26 Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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