Isolated from a wide range of sources, the genus Paenibacillus comprises bacterial species relevant to humans, animals, plants, and the environment. Many Paenibacillus species can promote crop growth directly via biological nitrogen fixation, phosphate solubilization, production of the phytohormone indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), and release of siderophores that enable iron acquisition. They can also offer protection against insect herbivores and phytopathogens, including bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and viruses. This is accomplished by the production of a variety of antimicrobials and insecticides, and by triggering a hypersensitive defensive response of the plant, known as induced systemic resistance (ISR). Paenibacillus-derived antimicrobials also have applications in medicine, including polymyxins and fusaricidins, which are nonribosomal lipopeptides first isolated from strains of Paenibacillus polymyxa. Other useful molecules include exo-polysaccharides (EPS) and enzymes such as amylases, cellulases, hemicellulases, lipases, pectinases, oxygenases, dehydrogenases, lignin-modifying enzymes, and mutanases, which may have applications for detergents, food and feed, textiles, paper, biofuel, and healthcare. On the negative side, Paenibacillus larvae is the causative agent of American Foulbrood, a lethal disease of honeybees, while a variety of species are opportunistic infectors of humans, and others cause spoilage of pasteurized dairy products. This broad review summarizes the major positive and negative impacts of Paenibacillus: its realised and prospective contributions to agriculture, medicine, process manufacturing, and bioremediation, as well as its impacts due to pathogenicity and food spoilage. This review also includes detailed information in Additional files 1, 2, 3 for major known Paenibacillus species with their locations of isolation, genome sequencing projects, patents, and industrially significant compounds and enzymes. Paenibacillus will, over time, play increasingly important roles in sustainable agriculture and industrial biotechnology.
Keywords: Antimicrobials; Biocontrol; Biofertilizer; Biological nitrogen fixation; Biomass degradation; Biopesticide; Bioproducts; PGPR; Paenibacillus; Plant growth promotion.