Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea Finds More Cellulases


The biotechnology and biofuels industries are particularly interested in cellulases, enzymes that break down cellulose, the most abundant organic compound on Earth and the component that makes up 33 percent of all plant matter. Cellulases from a group of aerobic bacteria called Actinobacteria are of special interest as sources of enzymes useful for biofuel production from lignocellulosic biomass. They have distinct features and cellular organization when contrasted to those in anaerobic bacteria (such as the Clostridia). The DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) has sequenced the genomes of 11 diverse strains of these bacteria. Comparative analysis using the JGI’s Integrated Microbial Genomes system followed by experimental verification identified eight cellulolytic Actinobacterial species that were not previously known to degrade cellulose. Of seven organisms tested, six showed activity in assays for cellulases. One organism, Catenulispora acidiphilia, previously unknown to break down cellulose, has 15 predicted cellulases and may be used in future biofuel production. This work, conducted under the umbrella of the JGI’s Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea (GEBA) project, broadens the repertoire of useful enzymes beyond those previously recognized.


Anderson, I., B. Abt, A. Lykidis, H.-P. Klenk, N. Kyrpides, and N. Ivanova. 2012. “Genomics of Aerobic Cellulose Utilization Systems in Actinobacteria,” PLoS ONE 7(6), e39331. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039331.