Research Features

The large bacterial group, Burkholderia sensu lato, currently comprise of more than a hundred species that employ a variety of lifestyles. Members of this group range from plant pathogens, plant-growth promoting bacteria and also clinically important species. The taxonomy of this group has also been under intense scrutiny, due to the biotechnological potential of various beneficial strains and isolates.

In 2017, researchers from FABI provided genome-based phylogenetic evidence in support of the robust division of Burkholderia into three genera, namely Burkholderia sensu stricto, Caballeronia and Paraburkholderia ( This division of the genus allowed the recovery of well supported distinct groups broadly corresponding to pathogens, environmental species and plant-beneficial species (including various nodulators).

The taxonomic standing of this group of species recently came under examination again, when an international effort was made to investigate the evolution of these taxa using phylogenetics, phylogenomics and pathogenicity ( Amongst the international team of researchers conducting the study was Dr Marike Palmer, Chrizelle Beukes, Prof Emma Steenkamp and Prof Fanus Venter from FABI.

The results of this study provides good support for the recognition of another two genera, namely Mycetohabitans (referring to the ability of species in this genus to inhabit the fungus Rhizopus microsporus) and Trinickia (named after M.J. Trinick, who first isolated beta-rhizobia from Mimosa).

Beukes CW, Palmer M, Manyaka P, Chan W-Y, Avontuur JR, Van Zyl E, Huntemann M, Clum A, Pillay M, Palaniappan K, Varghese N, Mikhailova N, Stamatis D, Reddy TBK, Daum C, Shapiro N, Markowitz V, Ivanova N, Kyrpides N, Woyke T, Blom J, Whitman WB, Venter SN, Steenkamp ET. (2017) Genome data provides high support for generic boundaries in Burkholderia sensu lato. Frontiers in Microbiology 8(1154) 10.3389/fmicb.2017.01154 PDF

Estrada-de los Santos P, Palmer M, Chávez-Ramírez B, Beukes C, Steenkamp ET, Briscoe L, Khan N, Maluk M, Lafos M, Humm E, Arrabit M, Crook M, Gross E, Simon MF, Bueno dos Reis F, Whitman WB, Shapiro N, Poole PS, Hirsch AM, Venter SN, James EK. (2018) Whole Genome Analyses Suggests that Burkholderia sensu lato Contains Two Additional Novel Genera (Mycetohabitans gen. nov., and Trinickia gen. nov.): Implications for the Evolution of Diazotrophy and Nodulation in the Burkholderiaceae. Genes 9(8):389. 10.3390/genes9080389