Genome reduction in an abundant and ubiquitous soil bacterium 'Candidatus Udaeobacter copiosus'

Tess E. Brewer, Kim M. Handley, Paul Carini, Jack A. Gilbert, Noah Fierer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


Although bacteria within the Verrucomicrobia phylum are pervasive in soils around the world, they are under-represented in both isolate collections and genomic databases. Here, we describe a single verrucomicrobial group within the class Spartobacteria that is not closely related to any previously described taxa. We examined more than 1,000 soils and found this spartobacterial phylotype to be ubiquitous and consistently one of the most abundant soil bacterial phylotypes, particularly in grasslands, where it was typically the most abundant. We reconstructed a nearly complete genome of this phylotype from a soil metagenome for which we propose the provisional name 'Candidatus Udaeobacter copiosus'. The Ca. U. copiosus genome is unusually small for a cosmopolitan soil bacterium, estimated by one measure to be only 2.81 Mbp, compared to the predicted effective mean genome size of 4.74 Mbp for soil bacteria. Metabolic reconstruction suggests that Ca. U. copiosus is an aerobic heterotroph with numerous putative amino acid and vitamin auxotrophies. The large population size, relatively small genome and multiple putative auxotrophies characteristic of Ca. U. copiosus suggest that it may be undergoing streamlining selection to minimize cellular architecture, a phenomenon previously thought to be restricted to aquatic bacteria. Although many soil bacteria need relatively large, complex genomes to be successful in soil, Ca. U. copiosus appears to use an alternative strategy, sacrificing metabolic versatility for efficiency to become dominant in the soil environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16198
JournalNature Microbiology
StatePublished - Oct 31 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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