The Fibrobacteres: An Important Phylum of Cellulose-Degrading Bacteria

Emma Ransom-Jones, David L. Jones, Alan J. McCarthy, James E. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

247 Citations (Scopus)


The phylum Fibrobacteres currently comprises one formal genus, Fibrobacter, and two cultured species, Fibrobacter succinogenes and Fibrobacter intestinalis, that are recognised as major bacterial degraders of lignocellulosic material in the herbivore gut. Historically, members of the genus Fibrobacter were thought to only occupy mammalian intestinal tracts. However, recent 16S rRNA gene-targeted molecular approaches have demonstrated that novel centres of variation within the genus Fibrobacter are present in landfill sites and freshwater lakes, and their relative abundance suggests a potential role for fibrobacters in cellulose degradation beyond the herbivore gut. Furthermore, a novel subphylum within the Fibrobacteres has been detected in the gut of wood-feeding termites, and proteomic analyses have confirmed their involvement in cellulose hydrolysis. The genome sequence of F. succinogenes rumen strain S85 has recently suggested that within this group of organisms a "third" way of attacking the most abundant form of organic carbon in the biosphere, cellulose, has evolved. This observation not only has evolutionary significance, but the superior efficiency of anaerobic cellulose hydrolysis by Fibrobacter spp., in comparison to other cellulolytic rumen bacteria that typically utilise membrane-bound enzyme complexes (cellulosomes), may be explained by this novel cellulase system. There are few bacterial phyla with potential functional importance for which there is such a paucity of phenotypic and functional data. In this review, we highlight current knowledge of the Fibrobacteres phylum, its taxonomy, phylogeny, ecology and potential as a source of novel glycosyl hydrolases of biotechnological importance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-281
Number of pages15
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


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