Phylogenomic analyses and molecular signatures for the class Halobacteria and its two major clades: a proposal for division of the class Halobacteria into an emended order Halobacteriales and two new orders, Haloferacales ord. nov. and Natrialbales ord. nov., containing the novel families Haloferacaceae fam. nov. and Natrialbaceae fam. nov.
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The Halobacteria constitute one of the largest groups within the Archaea. The hierarchical relationship among members of this large class, which comprises a single order and a single family, has proven difficult to determine based upon 16S rRNA gene trees and morphological and physiological characteristics. This work reports detailed phylogenetic and comparative genomic studies on >100 halobacterial (haloarchaeal) genomes containing representatives from 30 genera to investigate their evolutionary relationships. In phylogenetic trees reconstructed on the basis of 32 conserved proteins, using both neighbour-joining and maximum-likelihood methods, two major clades (clades A and B) encompassing nearly two-thirds of the sequenced haloarchaeal species were strongly supported. Clades grouping the same species/genera were also supported by the 16S rRNA gene trees and trees for several individual highly conserved proteins (RpoC, EF-Tu, UvrD, GyrA, EF-2/EF-G). In parallel, our comparative analyses of protein sequences from haloarchaeal genomes have identified numerous discrete molecular markers in the form of conserved signature indels (CSI) in protein sequences and conserved signature proteins (CSPs) that are found uniquely in specific groups of haloarchaea. Thirteen CSIs in proteins involved in diverse functions and 68 CSPs that are uniquely present in all or most genome-sequenced haloarchaea provide novel molecular means for distinguishing members of the class Halobacteria from all other prokaryotes. The members of clade A are distinguished from all other haloarchaea by the unique shared presence of two CSIs in the ribose operon protein and small GTP-binding protein and eight CSPs that are found specifically in members of this clade. Likewise, four CSIs in different proteins and five other CSPs are present uniquely in members of clade B and distinguish them from all other haloarchaea. Based upon their specific clustering in phylogenetic trees for different gene/protein sequences and the unique shared presence of large numbers of molecular signatures, members of clades A and B are indicated to be distinct from all other haloarchaea because of their uniquely shared evolutionary histories. Based upon these results, it is proposed that clades A and B be recognized as two new orders, Natrialbales ord. nov. and Haloferacales ord. nov., within the class Halobacteria, containing the novel families Natrialbaceae fam. nov. and Haloferacaceae fam. nov. Other members of the class Halobacteria that are not members of these two orders will remain part of the emended order Halobacteriales in an emended family Halobacteriaceae.
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