Distribution and diversity of members of the bacterial phylum Fibrobacteres in environments where cellulose degradation occurs.

Emma Ransom-Jones, Davey L. Jones, Arwyn Edwards, J. E. McDonald

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The Fibrobacteres phylum contains two described species, Fibrobacter succinogenes and Fibrobacter intestinalis, both of which are prolific degraders of cellulosic plant biomass in the herbivore gut. However, recent 16S rRNA gene sequencing studies have identified novel Fibrobacteres in landfill sites, freshwater lakes and the termite hindgut, suggesting that members of the Fibrobacteres occupy a broader ecological range than previously appreciated. In this study, the ecology and diversity of Fibrobacteres was evaluated in 64 samples from contrasting environments where cellulose degradation occurred. Fibrobacters were detected in 23 of the 64 samples using Fibrobacter genus-specific 16S rRNA gene PCR, which provided their first targeted detection in marine and estuarine sediments, cryoconite from Arctic glaciers, as well as a broader range of environmental samples. To determine the phylogenetic diversity of the Fibrobacteres phylum, Fibrobacter-specific 16S rRNA gene clone libraries derived from 17 samples were sequenced (384 clones) and compared with all available Fibrobacteres sequences in the Ribosomal Database Project repository. Phylogenetic analysis revealed 63 lineages of Fibrobacteres (95% OTUs), with many representing as yet unclassified species. Of these, 24 OTUs were exclusively comprised of fibrobacters derived from environmental (non-gut) samples, 17 were exclusive to the mammalian gut, 15 to the termite hindgut, and 7 comprised both environmental and mammalian strains, thus establishing Fibrobacter spp. as indigenous members of microbial communities beyond the gut ecosystem. The data highlighted significant taxonomic and ecological diversity within the Fibrobacteres, a phylum circumscribed by potent cellulolytic activity, suggesting considerable functional importance in the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass in the biosphere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-509
Number of pages8
JournalSystematic and Applied Microbiology
Issue number7
Early online date17 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2014


  • Cellulose degradation
  • Diversity
  • Environment
  • Fibrobacter
  • Fibrobacteres
  • Phylogeny


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