Evolution and Ecology of Actinobacteria and Their Bioenergy Applications

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2016 Sep 8:70:235-54. doi: 10.1146/annurev-micro-102215-095748.


The ancient phylum Actinobacteria is composed of phylogenetically and physiologically diverse bacteria that help Earth's ecosystems function. As free-living organisms and symbionts of herbivorous animals, Actinobacteria contribute to the global carbon cycle through the breakdown of plant biomass. In addition, they mediate community dynamics as producers of small molecules with diverse biological activities. Together, the evolution of high cellulolytic ability and diverse chemistry, shaped by their ecological roles in nature, make Actinobacteria a promising group for the bioenergy industry. Specifically, their enzymes can contribute to industrial-scale breakdown of cellulosic plant biomass into simple sugars that can then be converted into biofuels. Furthermore, harnessing their ability to biosynthesize a range of small molecules has potential for the production of specialty biofuels.

Keywords: Streptomyces; actinomycetes; biofuels; biotechnology; cellulases; symbiosis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Actinobacteria / genetics
  • Actinobacteria / metabolism*
  • Biodiversity
  • Biofuels / analysis*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Biotechnology*


  • Biofuels