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Actinomycete

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Actinomycetes Introduction

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The actinobacterium is included in the phylum of a gram-positive bacterium. These can be terrestrial or aquatic organisms. They have great economic importance. It provides a great contribution to the soil system, thus helping humans in agriculture and forests. They help in the decomposition of dead organic matter and help the plants to absorb the molecules that are present in the soil. The Actinomycetales belong to the order of actinobacteria. A member that is present in this order is called actinomycetes. These are gram-positive and anaerobic organisms where they are diverse and contain a variety of species. 

What are Actinomycetes?

The actinomycetes meaning is as follows they are the unicellular organisms that belong to the Actinomycetales order and these are gram-positive bacteria. Around the world, these can be found in a wide variety of distribution in several habitats in the natural world. The word “Actinomycetes” is derived from Greek, where “atkis” means ray and “mykes” means fungi. Formerly these are categorized under the group of fungi. It is found that these can share some characteristics with fungi and also capable of causing the same diseases in the eye as that of fungi. 

Along with the wide distribution they are versatile nutritionally as well and these are capable of producing various types of spores. Having these characteristics helps them to compete with other organisms that are present in the surroundings. Some members that are present in this group can cause various diseases and they are the important soil organisms that produce biologically active compounds that can be used as insecticides, and antibiotics, etc.

Actinomycetes Examples: 

  • Actinomyces meyeri

  • Actinomyces israelii

  • Streptomyces coelicolor

  • Streptomyces scabies

  • Nocardia brasiliensis

  • Nocardia asteroides

Actinomycetes Classification

Kingdom: They belong to the kingdom bacteria, thus these are unicellular organisms that have a simple cell structure. As members of this kingdom, they can be found in various habitats all over the world where some of these species are capable of causing mild to severe health disorders in human beings. Since these are Gram-positive bacteria they can contain a peptidoglycan layer in the cell wall. 


Phylum: They belong to the phylum Actinobacteria, as a member of this phylum Actinomycetes are said to be Gram-positive with having the highest content of “G + C” in the DNA structure. These are found in aquatic and terrestrial regions, they have the ability to exhibit nutritional versatility in a higher range. They even produce mycelium.


Subclass: They belong to the subclass actinobacteridae, this subclass is diverse and consists of wide varieties of organisms that are present in most of the habitats. 


Order: The Actinomycetes belong to the order Actinomycetales, these are diverse and can be found in terrestrial and aquatic environments in nature. These are aerobic organisms and Gram-positive organisms. They have different characteristics related to their growth, as they grow in the form of filamentous structures. It contains various sub-orders such as Actinomycineae, Corynebacterineae, Catenulisporineae, and Micrococcineae.


These can be distributed all over the world as they have the capability to show high versatile nutrition. Thus they can live in any environment and can become a competitor to the organisms present in the surroundings. 

  • Since they can be found in a variety of habitats, they are present in the soil as microorganisms in different types of soil. But several factors can influence these species present in the soil. Some of the factors that influence the growth of these organisms include temperature, pH, and oxygen content present in the soil. These microorganisms are useful as they can break down the tough compounds or the polymers that can range from lignocelluloses to the pectin and also the cell walls of fungi. They can recycle the organic material that is present in the soil and can control the growth of other organisms present in the soil. They can also help to fix the nitrogen content in the soil. 

  • The earthy smell of the soil is due to the activities that are done by actinomycetes in soil when the fresh layer of soil is turned up. They can be found in both freshwater and marine environments. As compared to the freshwater and terrestrial regions the population present in the marine environment is less. They help in the decomposition of several hydrocarbons such as cellulose, alginates, etc. 

  • In compost or manure, the Thermophilic actinomycetes are present. Due to the presence of these organisms the heat production level increases and thus provides a favourable condition for the decomposition. The spores that are present in the soil are hydrated and thus the motile spores are released. There is no evidence to prove the origin of the marine habitats, but the microorganisms are adapted to this environment. They are even capable of surviving in extreme conditions, that include alkalophilic species, psychrophilic species, and halophilic species. 

Actinomycetes Characteristics

Some of the Morphological Characteristics Include:

  • The life cycle of these organisms includes spores and mycelial growth. In the majority of the species, the spore formation includes septation at different stages of aerial hyphae. Thus the plasma membrane is invaded and the inner cell wall breaks down and thickens to form a thick wall. During the process of sporulation, the nuclear material will get divided at the end of the sporulation process. A thick wall is formed around each one of the spores due to the presence of new material. This sporulation process occurs due to the fragmentation of hyphae or due to spore formation. 

  • In the soil or environmental conditions the spores are capable of surviving for a longer period of time. In these conditions, the spores germinate to form germ tubes these tubes further develop to become mycelium. 

  • They have a cell wall that covers the organism, this cell wall is made up of amino acids, amino sugars, and sugars. It also contains a peptidoglycan layer that is made up of diaminopimelic acid.

  • These are heterotrophic organisms that depend on other organisms for survival. To break down the material that is present in the environment these organisms produce enzymes such as cellulases that help to break down the sugars, proteases help to break down the protein molecules, keratinases help to break down the keratin material and amylases help to break down the starch. 

  • Some of the species of actinomycetes bacteria can have symbiotic relationships with the leguminous plants for survival. 

Conclusion

The actinomycetes help to break down several organic materials that are present in the soil. In agriculture, this process is important because they help to recycle the materials used by plants. They are capable of producing various enzymes that play an important role in industries. Around 75% of the antibiotics are derived from these organisms. One of the major advantages of these organisms is that they produce several bioactive metabolites that are involved in the production of various drugs such as antibiotics, etc.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are Actinomycetes?

Ans: The unicellular organisms that belong to the Actinomycetales order and these are gram-positive bacteria. Formerly these are categorized under the group of fungi. It is found that these can share some characteristics with fungi and are also capable of causing the same diseases in the eye as that of fungi. These can be distributed all over the world as they have the capability to show high versatile nutrition. Thus they can live in any environment and can become a competitor to the organisms present in the surroundings. 

2. Write the difference between Fungi and Actinomycetes.

Ans: 

Fungi

Actinomycetes

These are the non-motile filamentous structures that are gram-positive in nature that belong to the genus actinobacteria. 

The group of microorganisms includes single-celled organisms and complex multicellular organisms.

These are prokaryotic organisms.

These are eukaryotic organisms.

Filaments are smaller in size.

Filaments are larger in size.

GC content is lesser than fungi.

GC content is more.