(Pan)genomic analysis of two Rhodococcus isolates and their role in phenolic compound degradation

Sarah Benning, Karin Pritsch, Viviane Radl, Roberto Siani, Zhongjie Wang, Michael Schloter

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The genus Rhodococcus is recognized for its potential to degrade a large range of aromatic substances, including plant-derived phenolic compounds. We used comparative genomics in the context of the broader Rhodococcus pan-genome to study genomic traits of two newly described Rhodococcus strains (type-strain Rhodococcus pseudokoreensis R79T and Rhodococcus koreensis R85) isolated from apple rhizosphere. Of particular interest was their ability to degrade phenolic compounds as part of an integrated approach to treat apple replant disease (ARD) syndrome. The pan-genome of the genus Rhodococcus based on 109 high-quality genomes was open with a small core (1.3%) consisting of genes assigned to basic cell functioning. The range of genome sizes in Rhodococcus was high, from 3.7 to 10.9 Mbp. Genomes from host-associated strains were generally smaller compared to environmental isolates which were characterized by exceptionally large genome sizes. Due to large genomic differences, we propose the reclassification of distinct groups of rhodococci like the Rhodococcus equi cluster to new genera. Taxonomic species affiliation was the most important factor in predicting genetic content and clustering of the genomes. Additionally, we found genes that discriminated between the strains based on habitat. All members of the genus Rhodococcus had at least one gene involved in the pathway for the degradation of benzoate, while biphenyl degradation was mainly restricted to strains in close phylogenetic relationships with our isolates. The ~40% of genes still unclassified in larger Rhodococcus genomes, particularly those of environmental isolates, need more research to explore the metabolic potential of this genus.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • KEYWORDS actinobacteria
  • apple replant disease
  • benzoate degradation
  • biphenyl degradation
  • comparative genomics


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