Evidence for ecological flexibility in the cosmopolitan genus Curtobacterium.
Assigning ecological roles to bacterial taxa remains imperative to understanding how microbial communities will respond to changing environmental conditions. Here we analyze the genus Curtobacterium, as it was found to be the most abundant taxon in a leaf litter community in southern California. Traditional characterization of this taxon predominantly associates it as the causal pathogen in the agricultural crops of dry beans. Therefore, we sought to investigate whether the abundance of this genus was because of its role as a plant pathogen or another ecological role. By collating >24,000 16S rRNA sequences with 120 genomes across the Microbacteriaceae family, we show that Curtobacterium has a global distribution with a predominant presence in soil ecosystems. Moreover, this genus harbors a high diversity of genomic potential for the degradation of carbohydrates, specifically with regards to structural polysaccharides. We conclude that Curtobacterium may be responsible for the degradation of organic matter within litter communities.