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Uneven distribution of cobamide biosynthesis and dependence in bacteria predicted by comparative genomics


The vitamin B12 family of cofactors known as cobamides are essential for a variety of microbial metabolisms. We used comparative genomics of 11,000 bacterial species to analyze the extent and distribution of cobamide production and use across bacteria. We find that 86% of bacteria in this data set have at least one of 15 cobamide-dependent enzyme families, but only 37% are predicted to synthesize cobamides de novo. The distribution of cobamide biosynthesis and use vary at the phylum level. While 57% of Actinobacteria are predicted to biosynthesize cobamides, only 0.6% of Bacteroidetes have the complete pathway, yet 96% of species in this phylum have cobamide-dependent enzymes. The form of cobamide produced by the bacteria could be predicted for 58% of cobamide-producing species, based on the presence of signature lower ligand biosynthesis and attachment genes. Our predictions also revealed that 17% of bacteria have partial biosynthetic pathways, yet have the potential to salvage cobamide precursors. Bacteria with a partial cobamide biosynthesis pathway include those in a newly defined, experimentally verified category of bacteria lacking the first step in the biosynthesis pathway. These predictions highlight the importance of cobamide and cobamide precursor salvaging as examples of nutritional dependencies in bacteria.

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