The anaerobic biodegradation of organic matter is accomplished by sequential syntrophic catabolism by microbes in different niches. Pelotomaculum thermopropionicum is a representative syntrophic bacterium that catalyzes the intermediate bottleneck step in the anaerobic-biodegradation process, whereby volatile fatty acids (VFAs) and alcohols produced by upstream fermenting bacteria are converted to acetate, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide (substrates for downstream methanogenic archaea). To reveal genomic features that contribute to our understanding of the ecological niche and evolution of P. thermopropionicum, we sequenced its 3,025,375-bp genome and performed comparative analyses with genomes of other community members available in the databases. In the genome, 2920 coding sequences (CDSs) were identified. These CDSs showed a distinct distribution pattern in the functional categories of the Clusters of Orthologous Groups database, which is considered to reflect the niche of this organism. P. thermopropionicum has simple catabolic pathways, in which the propionate-oxidizing methylmalonyl-CoA pathway constitutes the backbone and is linked to several peripheral pathways. Genes for most of the important catabolic enzymes are physically linked to those for PAS-domain-containing regulators, suggesting that the catabolic pathways are regulated in response to environmental conditions and/or global cellular situations rather than specific substrates. Comparative analyses of codon usages revealed close evolutionary relationships between P. thermopropionicum and other niche members, while it was distant from phylogenetically related sugar-fermenting bacteria. These analyses suggest that P. thermopropionicum has evolved as a syntrophy specialist by interacting with niche-associated microbes.
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