Reference Work Entry

The Prokaryotes

pp 257-265


  • Peter N. Green


The genus Methylobacterium is composed of a variety of pink-pigmented facultatively methylotrophic (PPFM) bacteria, which can grow on one-carbon compounds such as formate, formaldehyde and methanol as sole source of carbon and energy as well as on a wide range of multi-carbon growth substrates. Most, but not all, strains can grow on nutrient agar and some can grow on methylated amines. Only one strain has been reported to utilize methane as sole carbon source.


The first Methylobacterium strain to be described in the literature was isolated by Bassalik (1913) from earthworm contents and named Bacillus extorquens. Although they are common soil and environmental organisms, the PPFM bacteria were not isolated and studied extensively until the 1960s and 1970s, when interest in the study of the one-carbon assimilation pathways common to methylotrophic organisms and in the commercial applicability of these organisms first began.

Prior to 1960, the taxonom ...

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