Beyond the bacterium: planctomycetes challenge our concepts of microbial structure and function

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011 Jun;9(6):403-13. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2578.


Planctomycetes form a distinct phylum of the domain Bacteria and possess unusual features such as intracellular compartmentalization and a lack of peptidoglycan in their cell walls. Remarkably, cells of the genus Gemmata even contain a membrane-bound nucleoid analogous to the eukaryotic nucleus. Moreover, the so-called 'anammox' planctomycetes have a unique anaerobic, autotrophic metabolism that includes the ability to oxidize ammonium; this process is dependent on a characteristic membrane-bound cell compartment called the anammoxosome, which might be a functional analogue of the eukaryotic mitochondrion. The compartmentalization of planctomycetes challenges our hypotheses regarding the origins of eukaryotic organelles. Furthermore, the recent discovery of both an endocytosis-like ability and proteins homologous to eukaryotic clathrin in a planctomycete marks this phylum as one to watch for future research on the origin and evolution of the eukaryotic cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Compartmentation / physiology
  • Endocytosis / physiology
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Organelles / physiology
  • Phylogeny


  • Bacterial Proteins