Bacillus licheniformis

Updated: Sep 4, 2020


Description & Signifigance

Bacillus licheniformis is a bacterium that is commonly found in soil and bird feathers. Birds that tend to stay on the ground more than the air (i.e. sparrows)and on the water (i.e. ducks) are common carriers of this bacterium; it is mostly found around the bird's chest area and back plumage. B. licheniformis is part of the subtilis group along with Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus pumilus. These bacteria are commonly known to cause food poisoning and food spoilage. B. licheniformis also is known for contaminating dairy products. Food borne outbreaks usually involve cases of cooked meats and vegetables, raw milk, and industrially produced baby food contaminated with B. licheniformis.

This bacterium, although detrimental, can be modified to become useful. Researchers are trying to turn bird feathers into a nutritious livestock feed by fermenting non-digestable proteins on bird feathers with B. licheniformis. There is also research about the possibility that B. licheniformis causes changes in color in birds' feathers; this will provide information on the evolution of molting. Also, cultures of B. licheniformis are made to retain its protease, which is in turn used in laundry detergent.


Genome Structure

The complete nucleotide sequence of Bacillus licheniformis consists of the ATCC 14580 genome, which has a circular chromosome of 4,222,336 bp (base pairs) which contains 4,208 predicted protein-coding genes (average size of 873 bp), 7 rRNA operons, and 72 tRNA genes. The GC content is 46.2% and no plasmids were detected.


The chromosome of B. licheniformis has large regions that are similar to Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus halodurans. Since about 80% of the coding sequence of B. licheniformis contain B. subtilis orthologs, it is considered part of the subtilis group. But, although similar to B. subtilis, they differ in the amount and location of prophages, transposable elements, extracellular enzymes, and secondary metabolic pathway operons.