The Genus Rhodococcus in Biotechnology

Rhodococcus is a genus of Gram-positive, non-spore-forming bacteria that belongs to the family Nocardiaceae within the Actinobacteria phylum. These bacteria are characterized by their ability to form irregular rod-shaped cells and often exhibit branching filaments or mycelia-like structures. The name “Rhodococcus” is derived from the Greek words “rhodo” meaning “rose” and “coccus” meaning “berry,” referring to the pink to red pigmentation sometimes observed in certain species.

The genus has been extensively reviewed especially in its applications for biotechnology (Bell et al., 1998).

Rhodococcus species are found in various environments, including soil, water, and plants. They have also been isolated from clinical samples and are known to be associated with infections in humans and animals. Some species of Rhodococcus are known to be opportunistic pathogens, particularly in immunocompromised individuals.

One of the notable characteristics of Rhodococcus bacteria is their metabolic versatility. They possess a wide range of enzymatic capabilities, allowing them to degrade a variety of organic compounds, including complex hydrocarbons, aromatic compounds, and pollutants. This metabolic flexibility has made them of interest in bioremediation and industrial applications, such as the production of biocatalysts and biopolymers.

Furthermore, Rhodococcus species are known to produce unique secondary metabolites, such as antibiotics and other bioactive compounds. Some species, such as Rhodococcus equi, are known for their pathogenicity in horses and have been extensively studied for their virulence factors and mechanisms of infection.

A species that deserves especial attention is R. erythropolis which has been examined extensively for its great range of bioconversion reactions. The cells if not the extracted enzymes all have considerable potential in the industrial context and deserve further exploration (de Carvalho & da Fonseca, 2005). In the perfume and flavour industries, R.erythropolis could be used to generate aroma and flavour compounds such as carvone and carveol (van der Werf & Boot, 2000).

Overall, the genus Rhodococcus encompasses a diverse group of bacteria with fascinating biological properties and ecological significance. Their metabolic capabilities, pathogenic potential, and production of bioactive compounds make them intriguing subjects for research in various fields, including biotechnology, medicine, and environmental science.


Bell, K. S., Philp, J. C., Aw, D. W. J., & Christofi, N. (1998). The genus rhodococcus. Journal of Applied Microbiology85(2), pp. 195-210 (Article).

de Carvalho, C.C.C.R., da Fonseca, M.M.R. (2005) The remarkable Rhodococcus erythropolisAppl Microbiol Biotechnol 67, pp. 715–726 (Article). 

van der Werf, M. J., & Boot, A. M. (2000). Metabolism of carveol and dihydrocarveol in Rhodococcus erythropolis DCL14. Microbiology146(5), pp. 1129-1141.

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