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J Bacteriol. 2015 Dec 28;198(5):867-76. doi: 10.1128/JB.00771-15.

Essential Genome of the Metabolically Versatile Alphaproteobacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Molecular and Cellular Biology Program, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA


Rhodopseudomonas palustris is an alphaproteobacterium that has served as a model organism for studies of photophosphorylation, regulation of nitrogen fixation, production of hydrogen as a biofuel, and anaerobic degradation of aromatic compounds. This bacterium is able to transition between anaerobic photoautotrophic growth, anaerobic photoheterotrophic growth, and aerobic heterotrophic growth. As a starting point to explore the genetic basis for the metabolic versatility of R. palustris, we used transposon mutagenesis and Tn-seq to identify 552 genes as essential for viability in cells growing aerobically on semirich medium. Of these, 323 have essential gene homologs in the alphaproteobacterium Caulobacter crescentus, and 187 have essential gene homologs in Escherichia coli. There were 24 R. palustris genes that were essential for viability under aerobic growth conditions that have low sequence identity but are likely to be functionally homologous to essential E. coli genes. As expected, certain functional categories of essential genes were highly conserved among the three organisms, including translation, ribosome structure and biogenesis, secretion, and lipid metabolism. R. palustris cells divide by budding in which a sessile cell gives rise to a motile swarmer cell. Conserved cell cycle genes required for this developmental process were essential in both C. crescentus and R. palustris. Our results suggest that despite vast differences in lifestyles, members of the alphaproteobacteria have a common set of essential genes that is specific to this group and distinct from that of gammaproteobacteria like E. coli.


Essential genes in bacteria and other organisms are those absolutely required for viability. Rhodopseudomonas palustris has served as a model organism for studies of anaerobic aromatic compound degradation, hydrogen gas production, nitrogen fixation, and photosynthesis. We used the technique of Tn-seq to determine the essential genes of R. palustris grown under heterotrophic aerobic conditions. The transposon library generated in this study will be useful for future studies to identify R. palustris genes essential for viability under specialized growth conditions and also for survival under conditions of stress.

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