Isoprene-degrading bacteria associated with the phyllosphere of Salix fragilis, a high isoprene-emitting willow of the Northern Hemisphere

Lisa Gibson, Andrew T. Crombie, Niall P. McNamara, J. Colin Murrell

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Background: Isoprene accounts for about half of total biogenic volatile organic compound emissions globally, and as a climate active gas it plays a significant and varied role in atmospheric chemistry. Terrestrial plants are the largest source of isoprene, with willow (Salix) making up one of the most active groups of isoprene producing trees. Bacteria act as a biological sink for isoprene and those bacteria associated with high isoprene-emitting trees may provide further insight into its biodegradation. Results: A DNA-SIP experiment incubating willow (Salix fragilis) leaves with 13C-labelled isoprene revealed an abundance of Comamonadaceae, Methylobacterium, Mycobacterium and Polaromonas in the isoprene degrading community when analysed by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Metagenomic analysis of 13C-enriched samples confirmed the abundance of Comamonadaceae, Acidovorax, Polaromonas, Variovorax and Ramlibacter. Mycobacterium and Methylobacterium were also identified after metagenomic analysis and a Mycobacterium metagenome-assembled genome (MAG) was recovered. This contained two complete isoprene degradation metabolic gene clusters, along with a propane monooxygenase gene cluster. Analysis of the abundance of the alpha subunit of the isoprene monooxygenase, isoA, in unenriched DNA samples revealed that isoprene degraders associated with willow leaves are abundant, making up nearly 0.2% of the natural bacterial community. Conclusions: Analysis of the isoprene degrading community associated with willow leaves using DNA-SIP and focused metagenomics techniques enabled recovery of the genome of an active isoprene-degrading Mycobacterium species and provided valuable insight into bacteria involved in degradation of isoprene on the leaves of a key species of isoprene-emitting tree in the northern hemisphere.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalEnvironmental Microbiome
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2021


  • Climate
  • DNA stable isotope probing
  • Isoprene
  • Isoprene monooxygenase
  • Salix fragilis
  • Willow tree
  • isoA

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