Modularity of methylotrophy, revisited


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Methylotrophy is a metabolic capability possessed by microorganisms that allows them to build biomass and to obtain energy from organic substrates containing no carbon–carbon bonds (C1 compounds, such as methane, methanol, etc.). This phenomenon in microbial physiology has been a subject of study for over 100 years, elucidating a set of well-defined enzymatic systems and pathways enabling this capability. The knowledge gained from the early genetic and genomic approaches to understanding methylotrophy pointed towards the existence of alternative enzymes/pathways for the specific metabolic goals. Different combinations of these systems in different organisms suggested that methylotrophy must be modular in its nature. More recent insights from genomic analyses, including the genomes representing novel types of methylotrophs, seem to reinforce this notion. This review integrates the new findings with the previously developed concept of modularity of methylotrophy.