Mycoplasma and Related Organisms

Authored by: Meghan May , Daniel R. Brown

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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Mycoplasma spp. are members of the class Mollicutes, have the smallest cells among free-living eubacteria, and have genomes presumed to approach the minimal essential information for independent cellular life (Brown 2011). Mycoplasma and the other mollicutes probably evolved from gram-positive ancestors (Maniloff 1992, 2002) by reductive processes that resulted in essentially obligate commensalism or parasitism of eukaryotic host cells. The distinguishing characteristics of mollicutes include small cell size (200–500 nm), small genome size (580–2200 kbp), low G + C content (typically in the range of 23–34 mol%, but 40 mol% in Mycoplasma pneumoniae), 16S rDNA sequences clearly affiliated with the class (Weisburg et al. 1989), unique codon usage (e.g., UGA as a tryptophan codon) in some lineages, minimal metabolic capabilities, lack of any cell wall, and species-specific serology. Although their cells are bounded only by a unit membrane, resulting in a general cellular pleomorphism, cytoskeletal elements confer helicity or polarity in some species. Some species exhibit rotatory, flexional, or gliding motility. The best-studied mollicutes are significant pathogens of humans, domesticated animals, or plants, and several species are common contaminants of in vitro eukaryotic cell cultures (Baseman and Tully 1997). Division G of the American Society for Microbiology ( encompasses the genetic, pathogenic, immunogenic, taxonomic, biochemical, and clinical aspects of the animal, human, plant, and insect mollicutes. The International Organization for Mycoplasmology ( and its International Research Programme on Comparative Mycoplasmology promote the cooperative international study of mycoplasmas and mollicute diseases. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce scientists who have been trained in other disciplines to Mycoplasma and related organisms, and to provide an entry to the literature of practical mycoplasmology with emphasis on vaccinology and methods of genetic manipulation for microbiologists who specialize in other species.

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