Detection and isolation of chloromethane-degrading bacteria from the Arabidopsis thaliana phyllosphere, and characterization of chloromethane utilization genes


  • Editor: Julian Marchesi

Correspondence: Thierry Nadalig, Université de Strasbourg, UMR 7156 CNRS, 28 rue Goethe, 67083 Strasbourg Cédex, France. Tel.: +33 3 688 519 73; fax: +33 3 688 520 28; e-mail:


Chloromethane gas is produced naturally in the phyllosphere, the compartment defined as the aboveground parts of vegetation, which hosts a rich bacterial flora. Chloromethane may serve as a growth substrate for specialized aerobic methylotrophic bacteria, which have been isolated from soil and water environments, and use cmu genes for chloromethane utilization. Evidence for the presence of chloromethane-degrading bacteria on the leaf surfaces of Arabidopsis thaliana was obtained by specific quantitative PCR of the cmuA gene encoding the two-domain methyltransferase corrinoid protein of chloromethane dehalogenase. Bacterial strains were isolated on a solid mineral medium with chloromethane as the sole carbon source from liquid mineral medium enrichment cultures inoculated with leaves of A. thaliana. Restriction analysis-based genotyping of cmuA PCR products was used to evaluate the diversity of chloromethane-degrading bacteria during enrichment and after strain isolation. The isolates obtained, affiliated to the genus Hyphomicrobium based on their 16S rRNA gene sequence and the presence of characteristic hyphae, dehalogenate chloromethane, and grow in a liquid culture with chloromethane as the sole carbon and energy source. The cmu genes of these isolates were analysed using new PCR primers, and their sequences were compared with those of previously reported aerobic chloromethane-degrading strains. The three isolates featured a colinear cmuBCA gene arrangement similar to that of all previously characterized strains, except Methylobacterium extorquens CM4 of known genome sequence.