Phylogeny and molecular signatures for the phylum Fusobacteria and its distinct subclades
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The members of the phylum Fusobacteria and its two families, Fusobacteriaceae and Leptotrichiaceae, are distinguished at present mainly on the basis of their branching in the 16S rRNA gene trees and analysis of the internal transcribed spacer sequences in the 16S-23S rDNA. However, no biochemical or molecular characteristics are known that are uniquely shared by all of most members of these groups of bacteria. We report here detailed phylogenetic and comparative analyses on 45 sequenced Fusobacteria genomes to examine their evolutionary relationships and to identify molecular markers that are specific for the members of this phylum. In phylogenetic trees based on 16S rRNA gene sequences or concatenated sequences for 17 conserved proteins, members of the families Fusobacteriaceae and Leptotrichiaceae formed strongly supported clades and were clearly distinguished. In these trees, the species from the genus Fusobacterium also formed a number of well-supported clades. In parallel, comparative analyses on Fusobacteria genomes have identified 44 conserved signature indels (CSIs) in proteins involved in a broad range of functions that are either specific for the phylum Fusobacteria or a number of distinct subclades within this phylum. Seven of these CSIs in important proteins are uniquely present in the protein homologs of all sequenced Fusobacteria and they provide potential molecular markers for this phylum. Six and three other CSIs in other protein sequences are specific for members of the families Fusobacteriaceae and Leptotrichiaceae, respectively, and they provide novel molecular means for distinguishing members of these two families. Fourteen additional CSIs in different proteins, which are specific for either members of the genera Fusobacterium or Leptotrichia, or a number of other well-supported clades of Fusobacteria at multiple phylogenetic levels, provide molecular markers for these groups and information regarding the evolutionary relationships among the members of this phylum. Lastly, the present work has also identified 14 CSIs in divergent proteins that are specific for three specific subclades of Fusobacterium species, which are also indicated to be distinct by phylogenetic analyses. The members of these three Fusobacterium subclades also differ significantly from each other in their whole genome average nucleotide identities values, suggesting that they are possible candidates for recognition as different genera. The molecular markers reported here provide novel means for the identification of members of the phylum Fusobacteria and for their classification.
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