A phylogenomic reappraisal of family-level divisions within the class Halobacteria: proposal to divide the order Halobacteriales into the families Halobacteriaceae, Haloarculaceae fam. nov., and Halococcaceae fam. nov., and the order Haloferacales into the families, Haloferacaceae and Halorubraceae fam nov.
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The evolutionary interrelationships between the archaeal organisms which comprise the class Halobacteria have proven difficult to elucidate using traditional phylogenetic tools. The class currently contains three orders. However, little is known about the family level relationships within these orders. In this work, we have completed a comprehensive comparative analysis of 129 sequenced genomes from members of the class Halobacteria in order to identify shared molecular characteristics, in the forms of conserved signature insertions/deletions (CSIs) and conserved signature proteins (CSPs), which can provide reliable evidence, independent of phylogenetic trees, that the species from the groups in which they are found are specifically related to each other due to common ancestry. Here we present 20 CSIs and 31 CSPs which are unique characteristics of infra-order level groups of genera within the class Halobacteria. We also present 40 CSIs and 234 CSPs which are characteristic of Haloarcula, Halococcus, Haloferax, or Halorubrum. Importantly, the CSIs and CSPs identified here provide evidence that the order Haloferacales contains two main groups, one consisting of Haloferax and related genera supported by four CSIs and five CSPs and the other consisting of Halorubrum and related genera supported by four CSPs. We have also identified molecular characteristics that suggest that the polyphyletic order Halobacteriales contains at least two large monophyletic clusters of organisms in addition to the polyphyletic members of the order, one cluster consisting of Haloarcula and related genera supported by ten CSIs and nineteen CSPs and the other group consisting of the members of the genus Halococcus supported by nine CSIs and 23 CSPs. We have also produced a highly robust phylogenetic tree based on the concatenated sequences of 766 proteins which provide additional support for the relationships identified by the CSIs and CSPs. On the basis of the phylogenetic analyses and the identified conserved molecular characteristics presented here, we propose a division of the order Haloferacales into two families, an emended family Haloferacaceae and Halorubraceae fam. nov. and a division of the order Halobacteriales into three families, an emended family Halobacteriaceae, Haloarculaceae fam. nov., and Halococcaceae fam. nov.
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