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Colony of Flavobacterium columnare on agar. (Photo J-F Bernardet) The genus Flavobacterium is the type genus of the family Flavobacteriaceae in the phylum Bacteroidetes [1]. This genus encompasses a great diversity of bacterial species mainly isolated from soil and aquatic environments. They include economically disastrous fish pathogens and environmental bacteria.

The economical and scientific interest in fish pathogens is stimulating an intense sequencing activity in the genus Flavobacterium. The species Flavobacterium psychrophilum is the causative agent of the cold water disease (CWD) and rainbow trout fry syndrome (RTFS) and constitutes one of the major threats to salmonid farming worldwide [2].

Lesions caused by Flavobacterium psychrophilum and F. columnare in rainbow trout and sturgeon. (Picture by P. Daniel)

INRA has published the annotation of the complete genome of F. psychrophilum; this was the first publication of a complete genome in this genus and of a fish pathogen [3]. INRA also conducted the first population genetics survey for this species based on multi-locus sequencing for this species [4]. The genome of two other important fish pathogens are being sequenced: Flavobacterium columnare (Mark Lawrence and coll.) and Flavobacterium branchiophilum (Genoscope and INRA). The sequence of an isolate of Flavobacterium johnsoniae, an environmental bacterium and likely opportunistic pathogen, has also been completed (Mark J. McBride and coll.).

Antarctic landscape. Many Flavobacterium species have been isolated from polar environements. (Picture by S. Chimonczyk) Probably owing to their abundance in environments of particular interest that have been subjected to large sampling campaigns in the last decade, as many as 41 Flavobacterium species have already been characterized [5]. Those environments include extreme habitats as diverse as glaciers, polar ice and sediments, warm springs, hard-water creeks and activated sludges. As such, members of this genus produce a variety of enzymes, some of them cold-adapted, which may have biotechnological applications in the future.


[1] Cutting a gordian knot : Emended classification and description of the genus Flavobacterium, emended description of the family Flavobacteriaceae, and proposal of Flavobacterium hydatis nom. nov. (basonym, Cytophage aquatilis strohl and tait 1978) Bernardet J-F, Segers P, Vancanneyt M, Berthe F and Vandamme P. International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology. 1996. Vol. 46. Pp. 128-148.

[2] Flavobacterium psychrophilum, cause of Bacterial Cold-Water Disease and Rainbow Trout Fry Syndrome. Cipriano RC, Holt RA. Fish Disease Leaflet No. 86. 2005. United States Dept. of the Interior. U.S. Geological Service, National Fish Health Research Laboratory, Kearneysville, WV.

[3] Complete genome sequence of the fish pathogen Flavobacterium psychrophilum. Duchaud E. et al. Nature Biotechnol. 2007. Vol. 25. Pp. 763—769.

[4] Population structure of the fish-pathogenic bacterium Flavobacterium psychrophilum. Nicolas P, Mondot S, Achaz G and Bouchenot C, Bernardet J-F and Duchaud E . Applied Environmental Microbiology. 2008. Vol. 74. Pp. 3702-3709.

[5] The Genus Flavobacterium. Bernardet J-F and Bowman JP. in The Prokaryotes, a Handbook on the biology of bacteria. 2006. Edn. 3 , Vol. 7 (eds. Dworkin, M. et al.). Pp. 481-531.

Last update on 23 February 2009

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