Open Access Research article

Variation in genomic islands contribute to genome plasticity in Cupriavidus metallidurans

Rob Van Houdt1*, Pieter Monsieurs1, Kristel Mijnendonckx12, Ann Provoost1, Ann Janssen1, Max Mergeay1 and Natalie Leys1

Author Affiliations

1 Unit of Microbiology, Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN), B-2400 Mol, Belgium

2 Laboratory of Food and Environmental Microbiology, Université catholique de Louvain, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:111  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-111

Published: 23 March 2012



Different Cupriavidus metallidurans strains isolated from metal-contaminated and other anthropogenic environments were genotypically and phenotypically compared with C. metallidurans type strain CH34. The latter is well-studied for its resistance to a wide range of metals, which is carried for a substantial part by its two megaplasmids pMOL28 and pMOL30.


Comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) indicated that the extensive arsenal of determinants involved in metal resistance was well conserved among the different C. metallidurans strains. Contrary, the mobile genetic elements identified in type strain CH34 were not present in all strains but clearly showed a pattern, although, not directly related to a particular biotope nor location (geographical). One group of strains carried almost all mobile genetic elements, while these were much less abundant in the second group. This occurrence was also reflected in their ability to degrade toluene and grow autotrophically on hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide, which are two traits linked to separate genomic islands of the Tn4371-family. In addition, the clear pattern of genomic islands distribution allowed to identify new putative genomic islands on chromosome 1 and 2 of C. metallidurans CH34.


Metal resistance determinants are shared by all C. metallidurans strains and their occurrence is apparently irrespective of the strain's isolation type and place. Cupriavidus metallidurans strains do display substantial differences in the diversity and size of their mobile gene pool, which may be extensive in some (including the type strain) while marginal in others.