High natural PHA production from acetate in Cobetia sp. MC34 and Cobetia marina DSM 4741T and in silico analyses of the genus specific PhaC2 polymerase variant

Microb Cell Fact. 2021 Dec 20;20(1):225. doi: 10.1186/s12934-021-01713-0.


Background: Several members of the bacterial Halomonadacea family are natural producers of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which are promising materials for use as biodegradable bioplastics. Type-strain species of Cobetia are designated PHA positive, and recent studies have demonstrated relatively high PHA production for a few strains within this genus. Industrially relevant PHA producers may therefore be present among uncharacterized or less explored members. In this study, we characterized PHA production in two marine Cobetia strains. We further analyzed their genomes to elucidate pha genes and metabolic pathways which may facilitate future optimization of PHA production in these strains.

Results: Cobetia sp. MC34 and Cobetia marina DSM 4741T were mesophilic, halotolerant, and produced PHA from four pure substrates. Sodium acetate with- and without co-supplementation of sodium valerate resulted in high PHA production titers, with production of up to 2.5 g poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB)/L and 2.1 g poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV)/L in Cobetia sp. MC34, while C. marina DSM 4741T produced 2.4 g PHB/L and 3.7 g PHBV/L. Cobetia marina DSM 4741T also showed production of 2.5 g PHB/L from glycerol. The genome of Cobetia sp. MC34 was sequenced and phylogenetic analyses revealed closest relationship to Cobetia amphilecti. PHA biosynthesis genes were located at separate loci similar to the arrangement in other Halomonadacea. Further genome analyses revealed some differences in acetate- and propanoate metabolism genes between the two strains. Interestingly, only a single PHA polymerase gene (phaC2) was found in Cobetia sp. MC34, in contrast to two copies (phaC1 and phaC2) in C. marina DSM 4741T. In silico analyses based on phaC genes show that the PhaC2 variant is conserved in Cobetia and contains an extended C-terminus with a high isoelectric point and putative DNA-binding domains.

Conclusions: Cobetia sp. MC34 and C. marina DSM 4741T are natural producers of PHB and PHBV from industrially relevant pure substrates including acetate. However, further scale up, optimization of growth conditions, or use of metabolic engineering is required to obtain industrially relevant PHA production titers. The putative role of the Cobetia PhaC2 variant in DNA-binding and the potential implications remains to be addressed by in vitro- or in vivo methods.

Keywords: Acetate; Cobetia spp.; Genome; Halomonadacea; Halomonas spp.; PHA; PHB; PHBV; PhaC; Polyhydroxyalkanoates.

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Halomonadaceae / genetics*
  • Halomonadaceae / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Engineering / methods*
  • Phylogeny
  • Polyhydroxyalkanoates / analysis
  • Polyhydroxyalkanoates / biosynthesis*


  • Acetates
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Polyhydroxyalkanoates

Supplementary concepts

  • Cobetia marina