Polysaccharide degradation systems of the saprophytic bacterium Cellvibrio japonicus

  • Jeffrey G. GardnerEmail author


Study of recalcitrant polysaccharide degradation by bacterial systems is critical for understanding biological processes such as global carbon cycling, nutritional contributions of the human gut microbiome, and the production of renewable fuels and chemicals. One bacterium that has a robust ability to degrade polysaccharides is the Gram-negative saprophyte Cellvibrio japonicus. A bacterium with a circuitous history, C. japonicus underwent several taxonomy changes from an initially described Pseudomonas sp. Most of the enzymes described in the pre-genomics era have also been renamed. This review aims to consolidate the biochemical, structural, and genetic data published on C. japonicus and its remarkable ability to degrade cellulose, xylan, and pectin substrates. Initially, C. japonicus carbohydrate-active enzymes were studied biochemically and structurally for their novel polysaccharide binding and degradation characteristics, while more recent systems biology approaches have begun to unravel the complex regulation required for lignocellulose degradation in an environmental context. Also included is a discussion for the future of C. japonicus as a model system, with emphasis on current areas unexplored in terms of polysaccharide degradation and emerging directions for C. japonicus in both environmental and biotechnological applications.


Carbohydrate active enzyme Cellvibrio japonicus Lignocellulose Polysaccharide degradation Saprophyte 



Research in the lab of JGG is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research under Award Number DE-SC0014183. I would like to thank Dr. Harry Brumer (University of British Columbia), Dr. Stephen Miller (University of Maryland—Baltimore County), and Dr. Harry Gilbert (University of Newcastle) for their careful reading and thoughtful comments on the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflicts of interest.

Ethical standard

This review article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Maryland - Baltimore CountyBaltimoreUSA

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