The genus Bacillus is a phylogenetically incoherent taxon with members of the group lacking a common evolutionary history. Comprising aerobic and anaerobic spore-forming bacteria, no characteristics are known that can distinguish species of this genus from other similar endospore-forming genera. With the availability of complete genomic data from over 30 different species from this group, we have constructed detailed phylogenetic trees to determine the relationships among Bacillus and other closely related taxa. Additionally, we have performed comparative genomic analysis for the determination of molecular markers, in the form of conserved signature indels (CSIs), to assist in the understanding of relationships among species of the genus Bacillus in molecular terms. Based on the analysis, we report here the identification of 11 and 6 CSIs that clearly differentiate a ‘ Bacillus subtilis clade’ and a ‘ Bacillus cereus clade’, respectively, from all other species of the genus Bacillus . No molecular markers were identified that supported a larger clade within this genus. The subtilis and the cereus clades were also the largest observed monophyletic groupings among species from the genus Bacillus in the phylogenetic trees based on 16S rRNA gene sequences and those based upon concatenated sequences for 20 conserved proteins. Thus, the relationships observed among these groups of species through CSIs are independently well supported by phylogenetic analysis. The molecular markers identified in this study provide a reliable means for the reorganization of the currently polyphyletic genus Bacillus into a more evolutionarily consistent set of groups. It is recommended that the genus Bacillus sensu stricto should comprise only the monophyletic subtilis clade that is demarcated by the identified CSIs, with B. subtilis as its type species. Members of the adjoining cereus clade (referred to as the Cereus clade of bacilli), although they are distinct from the subtilis clade, will also retain the Bacillus genus name as they contain several clinically important species, and their transfer into a new genus could have serious consequences. However, all other species that are currently part of the genus Bacillus and not part of these two clades should be eventually transferred to other genera. We also propose that all novel species of the genus Bacillus must meet minimal requirements, foremost among which is that the branching of the prospective species with the Bacillus sensu stricto clade or the Cereus clade of bacilli should be strongly supported by 16S rRNA gene sequence trees or trees based upon concatenated protein sequences. Additionally, the presence of one or more of the CSIs that are specific for these clades may be used to confirm molecularly the placement of the species into these clades. The identified CSIs, in addition to their usefulness for taxonomic and diagnostic purposes, also provide novel probes for genetic and biochemical studies of these bacteria.
The tree of life is paramount for achieving an integrated understanding of microbial evolution and the relationships between physiology, genealogy and genomics. It provides the framework for interpreting environmental sequence data, whether applied to microbial ecology or to human health. However, there remain many instances where there is ambiguity in our understanding of the phylogeny of major lineages, and/or confounding nomenclature. Here we apply recent genomic sequence data to examine the evolutionary history of members of the classes Mollicutes (phylum Tenericutes ) and Erysipelotrichia (phylum Firmicutes ). Consistent with previous analyses, we find evidence of a specific relationship between them in molecular phylogenies and signatures of the 16S rRNA, 23S rRNA, ribosomal proteins and aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase proteins. Furthermore, by mapping functions over the phylogenetic tree we find that the erysipelotrichia lineages are involved in various stages of genomic reduction, having lost (often repeatedly) a variety of metabolic functions and the ability to form endospores. Although molecular phylogeny has driven numerous taxonomic revisions, we find it puzzling that the most recent taxonomic revision of the phyla Firmicutes and Tenericutes has further separated them into distinct phyla, rather than reflecting their common roots.
Use of inadequate methods for classification of bacteria in the so-called Harveyi clade (family Vibrionaceae, Gammaproteobacteria) has led to incorrect assignment of strains and proliferation of synonymous species. In order to resolve taxonomic ambiguities within the Harveyi clade and to test usefulness of whole genome sequence data for classification of Vibrionaceae, draft genome sequences of 12 strains were determined and analysed. The sequencing included type strains of seven species: Vibrio sagamiensis NBRC 104589T, Vibrio azureus NBRC 104587T, Vibrio harveyi NBRC 15634T, Vibrio rotiferianus LMG 21460T, Vibrio campbellii NBRC 15631T, Vibrio jasicida LMG 25398T, and Vibrio owensii LMG 25443T. Draft genome sequences of strain LMG 25430, previously designated the type strain of [Vibrio communis], and two strains (MWB 21 and 090810c) from the ‘beijerinckii’ lineage were also determined. Whole genomes of two additional strains (ATCC 25919 and 200612B) that previously could not be assigned to any Harveyi clade species were also sequenced. Analysis of the genome sequence data revealed a clear case of synonymy between V. owensii and [V. communis], confirming an earlier proposal to synonymize both species. Both strains from the ‘beijerinckii’ lineage were classified as V. jasicida, while the strains ATCC 25919 and 200612B were classified as V. owensii and V. campbellii, respectively. We also found that two strains, AND4 and Ex25, are closely related to Harveyi clade bacteria, but could not be assigned to any species of the family Vibrionaceae. The use of whole genome sequence data for the taxonomic classification of the Harveyi clade bacteria and other members of the family Vibrionaceae is also discussed.