Paenibacillus Bacteria

Paenibacillus is a genus of gram-positive endospore-forming rods. The genus groups more than 90 species. Members of Paenibacillus are involved in nitrogen fixation, soil phosphorus solubilization, the production of chitinase (enzyme that breaks down chitin,important component of cell walls of fungi and higher plants), hydrolytic enzymes (enzymes that break down organic compounds by adding water), exopolysaccharides (extracellular mixture of sugar biopolymers which have applications in the fields of medicine and cosmetics), and in the enhancement of soil porosity. A number of Paenibacillus strains have been developed commercially as plant growth promoters and biocontrol agents.2

Several species of Paenibacillus are known to produce a wide range of toxins (e.g. peptide antibiotics) that inhibit activities of fungal, bacterial, and nematode pathogens in plants.

Paenibacillus maceransPaenibacillus macerans Source: CDC/Dr. Todd Parker. Ph.D.; Assoc. Director for Lab. Science/DPEI(Acting) and LRN Training Coordinator

Some members of Paenibacillus produce mutanases, enzymes that break down certain polymers, (e.g. mutans or a-1,3-glucans), in dental plaque formed by the adhesion of Streptococcus mutans and other bacterial cells to the tooth surface. Studies indicate that mutanases could be used to prevent caries.4

There have been several reports of human infection caused by a few members of this genus, most commonly by P. alvei, also found in honeybees. A case of bacteremia in a patient with renal failure caused by P. thiaminolyticus has been reported.5

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Paenibacillus popilliae - A pathogen of honeybee; causes American foulbrood, a fatal septicemia in bee larvae following ingestion of endospores. Infection is restricted to young larvae in which the spores germinate in midgut and grow. This species is also a pathogenic agent in milky disease in European chafer and Japanese beetle. Grubs ingest the bacteria along the soil and roots; spores germinate in their gut, grow and invade the body cavity and kill the insects.1

Paenibacillus polymyxa - One of the 11 Paenibacillus species commonly associated with plant roots; isolated from many plant species including rice, sugarcane, corn, sorghum, cereals, pineapple, and coffee beans; capable of nitrogen fixing; provide nutrients and phytohormones which induce systemic pathogen resistance in plants. Strains considered probiotics (beneficial bacteria) seem to belong to Paenibacillus polymyxa only.3

Paenibacillus polymyxa has also been investigated regarding its potential to induce the production of nitric oxide by macrophages. Nitric oxide (NO) contributes to controlling the replication or neutralizing intracellular microbial pathogens. ß-glucans, or glucose polymers found in the cell walls of Paenibacillus polymyxa (and some other bacteria and fungi), have been found to have beneficial effects on the immune system of experimental animals. This investigation supported the idea that ß-glucans isolated from Paenibacillus polymyxa can be used as immunostimulants or as adjuvant of some animal vaccines.6


  1. Applied Microbial Systematics. F.G. Priest, M. Goodfellow
  2. Plant Growth and Health Promoting Bacteria. Dinesh K. Maheshwari
  3. Prebiotics and probiotics science and technology, Volume 2 Dimitris Charalampopoulos, Robert A. Rastall
  4. Mutanase from Paenibacillus sp. MP-1 produced inductively by fungal a-1,3-glucan and its potential for the degradation of mutan and Streptococcus mutans biofilm by M. Pleszczynnska, A. Wiater, and J. Szczodrak
  5. Case Report: Paenibacillus thiaminolyticus: A New Cause of Human Infection, Inducing Bacteremia in a Patient on Hemodialysis by Jie Ouyang et al.
  6. A novel ß-glucan produced by Paenibacillus polymyxa JB115 induces nitric oxide production in RAW264.7 macrophages Zhi-Qiang Chang et al.



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