In heterocystous cyanobacteria, heterocyst differentiation is accompanied by developmentally regulated DNA rearrangements that occur within the nifD and hupL genes, referred to as the nifD and hupL elements. These elements are segments of DNA that are embedded within the coding region of each gene and range from 4 to 24 kb in length. The nifD and hupL elements are independently excised from the genome during the later stages of differentiation by the site-specific recombinases, XisA and XisC, respectively, which are encoded within the elements themselves. Here we examine the variation and evolution of the nifD and hupL elements by comparing full-length nifD and hupL element sequences and by phylogenetic analysis of xisA and xisC gene sequences. There is considerable variation in the size and composition of the nifD and hupL elements, however, conserved regions are also present within representatives of each element. The data suggest that the nifD and hupL elements have undergone a complex pattern of insertions, deletions, translocations and sequence divergence over the course of evolution, but that conserved regions remain.
Members of the order Halobacteriales are obligate extreme halophiles that belong to the domain Archaea. The classification of the Halobacteriales currently relies on a polyphasic approach, which integrates phenotypic, genotypic and chemotaxonomic characterization. However, the most utilized genetic marker for phylogeny, the 16S rRNA gene, has multiple drawbacks for use with the Halobacteriales: the species of many genera exhibit large intragenic differences between multiple ribosomal RNA operons, the gene is too conserved to discriminate reliably at the species level and it appears to be the most frequently recombined gene between closely related species. Moreover, the Halobacteriales is a rapidly expanding group due to recent successes at cultivating novel strains from a diverse set of hypersaline environments; a fast, reliable, inexpensive, portable molecular method for discriminating species is required for their investigation. Recently, multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) has been shown to be an effective tool for strain identification and taxonomic designation, even for those taxa that experience frequent lateral gene transfer and homologous recombination. In this study, MLSA was utilized for evolutionary and taxonomic investigation of the Halobacteriales. Efficacy of the MLSA approach was tested across a hierarchical gradient using 52 halobacterial strains, representing 33 species (including names without standing in nomenclature) and 14 genera. A subset of 21 strains from the genus Haloarcula was analysed separately to test the sensitivity and relevance of the MLSA approach among closely related strains and species. The results demonstrated that MLSA differentiated individual strains, reliably grouped strains into species and species into genera and identified potential novel species and also family-like relationships. This study demonstrates that MLSA is a rapid and informative molecular method that will probably accommodate strain analysis at any taxonomic level within the Halobacteriales.
The taxonomy of heterocystous cyanobacteria belonging to the genera Calothrix and Tolypothrix has long been a matter of debate, but their phylogenetic relationships are still not well understood. Our aim was to compare the phylogeny and morphology of members of these genera, which exhibit basal–apical polarity. A phylogeny was reconstructed on the basis of 16S rRNA gene sequences and compared with the morphological characterization of new isolates and environmental samples. Strains isolated from several rivers and streams showed a high degree of tapering when they were cultured in a nutrient-rich medium. However, clear differences were apparent when they were transferred to a nutrient-poor medium. Some strains showed a low degree of tapering and other morphological features corresponding to the genus Tolypothrix, such as false branching, whereas others maintained the morphological characteristics of the genus Calothrix. Phylogenetic analysis was congruent with the phenotypic characterization, in which the strains and environmental samples of the Tolypothrix and Calothrix morphotypes could be clearly separated. Isolates with a low degree of tapering and natural samples of Tolypothrix distorta were grouped in the same cluster, but strains of the genus Calothrix fell into well separated clades. Results from this study showed that representatives of the genus Tolypothrix share most morphological and developmental properties and a high degree of 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity. However, although similar and sometimes overlapping morphologies may occur in isolates of the genus Calothrix, these morphotypes may be distinguished on the basis of their clear genetic divergence.
Bacteria belonging to the genus Bradyrhizobium are capable of establishing symbiotic relationships with a broad range of plants belonging to the three subfamilies of the family Leguminosae ( = Fabaceae), with the formation of specialized structures on the roots called nodules, where fixation of atmospheric nitrogen takes place. Symbiosis is under the control of finely tuned expression of common and host-specific nodulation genes and also of genes related to the assembly and activity of the nitrogenase, which, in Bradyrhizobium strains investigated so far, are clustered in a symbiotic island. Information about the diversity of these genes is essential to improve our current poor understanding of their origin, spread and maintenance and, in this study, we provide information on 40 Bradyrhizobium strains, mostly of tropical origin. For the nodulation trait, common (nodA), Bradyrhizobium-specific (nodY/K) and host-specific (nodZ) nodulation genes were studied, whereas for fixation ability, the diversity of nifH was investigated. In general, clustering of strains in all nod and nifH trees was similar and the Bradyrhizobium group could be clearly separated from other rhizobial genera. However, the congruence of nod and nif genes with ribosomal and housekeeping genes was low. nodA and nodY/K were not detected in three strains by amplification or hybridization with probes using Bradyrhizobium japonicum and Bradyrhizobium elkanii type strains, indicating the high diversity of these genes or that strains other than photosynthetic Bradyrhizobium must have alternative mechanisms to initiate the process of nodulation. For a large group of strains, the high diversity of nod genes (with an emphasis on nodZ), the low relationship between nod genes and the host legume, and some evidence of horizontal gene transfer might indicate strategies to increase host range. On the other hand, in a group of five symbionts of Acacia mearnsii, the high congruence between nod and ribosomal/housekeeping genes, in addition to shorter nodY/K sequences and the absence of nodZ, highlights a co-evolution process. Additionally, in a group of B. japonicum strains that were symbionts of soybean, vertical transfer seemed to represent the main genetic event. In conclusion, clustering of nodA and nifH gives additional support to the theory of monophyletic origin of the symbiotic genes in Bradyrhizobium and, in addition to the analysis of nodY/K and nodZ, indicates spread and maintenance of nod and nif genes through both vertical and horizontal transmission, apparently with the dominance of one or other of these events in some groups of strains.