Habitat and taxon as driving forces of carbohydrate catabolism in marine heterotrophic bacteria: example of the model algae-associated bacterium Zobellia galactanivorans Dsij T

Environ Microbiol. 2016 Dec;18(12):4610-4627. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13584. Epub 2016 Nov 13.


The marine flavobacterium Zobellia galactanivorans DsijT was isolated from a red alga and by now constitutes a model for studying algal polysaccharide bioconversions. We present an in-depth analysis of its complete genome and link it to physiological traits. Z. galactanivorans exhibited the highest gene numbers for glycoside hydrolases, polysaccharide lyases and carbohydrate esterases and the second highest sulfatase gene number in a comparison to 125 other marine heterotrophic bacteria (MHB) genomes. Its genome contains 50 polysaccharide utilization loci, 22 of which contain sulfatase genes. Catabolic profiling confirmed a pronounced capacity for using algal polysaccharides and degradation of most polysaccharides could be linked to dedicated genes. Physiological and biochemical tests revealed that Z. galactanivorans stores and recycles glycogen, despite loss of several classic glycogen-related genes. Similar gene losses were observed in most Flavobacteriia, suggesting presence of an atypical glycogen metabolism in this class. Z. galactanivorans features numerous adaptive traits for algae-associated life, such as consumption of seaweed exudates, iodine metabolism and methylotrophy, indicating that this bacterium is well equipped to form profitable, stable interactions with macroalgae. Finally, using statistical and clustering analyses of the MHB genomes we show that their carbohydrate catabolism correlates with both taxonomy and habitat.

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Ecosystem
  • Flavobacteriaceae / genetics
  • Flavobacteriaceae / metabolism*
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / genetics
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Polysaccharide-Lyases / genetics
  • Polysaccharide-Lyases / metabolism
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism


  • Polysaccharides
  • Glycoside Hydrolases
  • Polysaccharide-Lyases