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A Microbial Biorealm page on the genus Paraburkholderia


Higher order taxa

cellular organisms; Bacteria; Proteobacteria; Betaproteobacteria; Burkholderiales; Burkholderiaceae


NCBI: Taxonomy

Genus species Paraburkholderia acidiphila,Paraburkholderia acidisoli, Paraburkholderia acidophila,Paraburkholderia agricolaris, Paraburkholderia aromaticivorans, Paraburkholderia aspalathi, Paraburkholderia atlantica, Paraburkholderia azotifigens, Paraburkholderia bannensis

Description and significance

Paraburkholderia are largely known for their ability to degrade aromatic compounds and many hydrocarbons. Recent phylogenomic evidence has divided Paraburkholderia from Burkholderia (1). Some species of this genera have the ability to form root nodules that fix atmospheric nitrogen. The metabolic capabilities of Paraburkholderia has created notable interests in the biodegradation field, where the ability of these species of bacteria to break down pollutants in soil (1). There is special focus on the breakdown of PAHs, or organic pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons created from pollution.

Genome structure

There are currently around 50-60 available genomes for Paraburkholderia. Diverse metabolic activity stems from its rather large genome of 7-10 Mb. Common G+C content of many Paraburkholderia species is 60-62% (2). Genomic DNA from strain RP11T was a strain of interest and sequenced at the Cornell University Sequencing Facility. The DNA sequencing of each strain of this bacteria proved to show advantages of metabolic decomposition of aromatic compounds. RP11T had different genomic factors from its close relatives, as it encoded the greatest number of genes in RAST (Rapid Annotations using Subsystem Technologies) for the metabolism of aromatics along with a great number of oxidases for aromatic-degradation (1). Additionally, a high number of encoded oxidizing enzymes were recognized in some strains, where all Paraburkholderia encode for the capability to grow on 4-hydroxybenzoic acid.

Cell structure and metabolism

Paraburkholderia madseniana is a Gram-negative bacteria, motile, and non-sporulating rods of about 0.8 µm by 1.4 µm. This species is often seen as diplobacillus (2). Paraburkholderia has vast metabolic activities and can be described as: facultative anaerobes, facultative chemolithotrophs, acid-tolerant and alkalizing, metal-tolerant, mineral weathering and phosphate solubilizing, polyaromatic hydrocarbon and xenobiotic degrading, plant-growth promoting, and nitrogen-fixing (1). In large, the metabolic activity of major significance is the role of plant-derived aromatic decomposition based on evidence of degradation of tannins and phenolics. Soil isolates have shown the ability to degrade PAH and halogenated phenols which indicates a diverse role in aromatic soil degradation as a whole. Paraburkholderia have been indicated as a strong contributor to affect the decomposition rate in soil where it is present due to this vast metabolic activity seen by its isolates.


There are currently 64 type strains of Paraburkholderia. The vast majority of strains originate from soils and plant roots with few strains described in aquatic environments. This genus is frequently isolated from acidic soils of forest and bogs, and particularly isolated from wood colonized by lignin-degrading white-rot fungi. Paraburkholderia is an environmental bacteria that lives in close proximity to plant and fungal tissues (3). These species produce a variety of metabolites with antimicrobial properties which allow them to suppress plant disease while killing many microbial pathogens. Additionally metabolic evidence of nitrogen fixation suggests that Paraburkholderia support plant growth. The bacteria use the plant and fungal tissues as a carbon source as explained by its metabolic activity of plant-derived aromatic degradation, and further indicate an efficient symbiotic relationship between the bacteria and organisms around it.

Application to Biotechnology

P. madseniana has significant biotechnological potential in its particular ability to degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) produced by burning fossil fuels. The increased interest in this genera of bacteria is the ability to use natural occurring bacteria derived from acidic soils to break down toxic pollutants.

Current Research

P. madseniana is a species of particular interest. After sequencing the bacterium’s rDNA, research showed that P. madseniana was adept at breaking down the aromatic hydrocarbons making up lignin, a major component of plant biomass (1). Little is known of the mechanisms of soil bacteria and their role in the carbon cycle. The metabolism of this strain of Paraburkholderia leads current researchers interested in soil bacteria management as a form of combating climate change. Current research is focused on the symbiotic relationship between bacteria and the forest trees, and the understanding of how bacteria break down carbon species in the soil. P. madseniana being one of the bacteria of interest.


Wilhelm, R. C., Murphy, S., Feriancek, N. M., Karasz, D. C., DeRito, C. M., Newman, J. D., & Buckley, D. H. (2020). Paraburkholderia madseniana sp. nov., a phenolic acid-degrading bacterium isolated from acidic forest soil. International journal of systematic and evolutionary microbiology, 70(3), 2137–2146.

Lee, Y., & Jeon, C. O. (2018). Paraburkholderia aromaticivorans sp. nov., an aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading bacterium, isolated from gasoline-contaminated soil. International journal of systematic and evolutionary microbiology, 68(4), 1251–1257.

Webster, G., Mullins, A., Bettridge, A. S., Jones, C., Cunningham-Oakes, E., Connor, T.R., Parkhill, J., & Mahenthiralingam, E. (2019). The Genome Sequences of Three Paraburkholderia sp. Strains Isolated from Wood-Decay Fungi Reveal Them as Novel Species with Antimicrobial Biosynthetic Potential. Microbiology Resource Announcements Aug 2019, 8 (34). e00778-19; DOI: 10.1128/MRA.00778-19

Edited by Kurtis Stadnicki, student of Dr. Charlotte Berkes at Merrimack College