The Genus Corynebacterium

Authored by: Lothar Eggeling , Michael Bott

Practical Handbook of Microbiology

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9781466587397
eBook ISBN: 9781466587403
Adobe ISBN:


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Corynebacterium was originally defined in 1896 by Lehmann and Neumann to accommodate nonmotile parasitic and pathogenic bacteria including diphtheroid bacilli [1]. Diphther is the Greek word for membrane and describes the fact that these latter bacteria can typically be isolated from a false membrane in the pharynx developed due to the necrotic action of the toxin made by Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Before the establishment of modern systematics, the taxon Corynebacterium accommodated a number of heterogeneous bacteria. However, based on the extended use of chemotaxonomic markers, mainly in the last third of the last century, like cell wall chemistry, and lipid composition, the taxon Corynebacterium was brought into a sharper focus, and it was also recognized that it is a member of the so-called CMN group of bacteria including besides Corynebacterium also bacteria like Mycobacterium and Nocardia. It is now clear that based on 16S rRNA/rDNA sequence patterns and in particular whole-genome sequences, Corynebacterium forms a robust and well-defined monophyletic group, which together with Gordonia, Mycobacterium, Nocardia, Rhodococcus, Tsukamurella, and Dietzia forms the taxon Corynebacteriales belonging to the large clade of Actinobacteria [2,3]. Recent reviews and monographs covering several aspects of pathogenic and nonpathogenic Corynebacterium species are available [48].

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