Poplar phyllosphere harbors disparate isoprene-degrading bacteria

Andrew T. Crombie, Nasmille L. Larke-Mejia, Helen Emery, Robin Dawson, Jennifer Pratscher, Gordon P. Murphy, Terry J. McGenity, J. Colin Murrell

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The climate-active gas isoprene (2-methyl-1,3-butadiene) is released to the atmosphere in huge quantities, almost equaling that of methane, yet we know little about the biological cycling of isoprene in the environment. Although bacteria capable of growth on isoprene as the sole source of carbon and energy have previously been isolated from soils and sediments, no microbiological studies have targeted the major source of isoprene and examined the phyllosphere of isoprene-emitting trees for the presence of degraders of this abundant carbon source. Here, we identified isoprene-degrading bacteria in poplar tree-derived microcosms by DNA stable isotope probing. The genomes of isoprene-degrading taxa were reconstructed, putative isoprene metabolic genes were identified, and isoprene-related gene transcription was analyzed by shotgun metagenomics and metatranscriptomics. Gram-positive bacteria of the genus Rhodococcus proved to be the dominant isoprene degraders, as previously found in soil. However, a wider diversity of isoprene utilizers was also revealed, notably Variovorax, a genus not previously associated with this trait. This finding was confirmed by expression of the isoprene monooxygenase from Variovorax in a heterologous host. A Variovorax strain that could grow on isoprene as the sole carbon and energy source was isolated. Analysis of its genome confirmed that it contained isoprene metabolic genes with an identical layout and high similarity to those identified by DNA-stable isotope probing and metagenomics. This study provides evidence of a wide diversity of isoprene-degrading bacteria in the isoprene-emitting tree phyllosphere and greatly enhances our understanding of the biodegradation of this important metabolite and climate-active gas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13081-13086
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)
Issue number51
Early online date29 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2018

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