Conserved signature indels and signature proteins as novel tools for understanding microbial phylogeny and systematics: identification of molecular signatures that are specific for the phytopathogenic genera Dickeya, Pectobacterium and Brenneria
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Genome sequences are enabling applications of different approaches to more clearly understand microbial phylogeny and systematics. Two of these approaches involve identification of conserved signature indels (CSIs) and conserved signature proteins (CSPs) that are specific for different lineages. These molecular markers provide novel and more definitive means for demarcation of prokaryotic taxa and for identification of species from these groups. Genome sequences are also enabling determination of phylogenetic relationships among species based upon sequences for multiple proteins. In this work, we have used all of these approaches for studying the phytopathogenic bacteria belonging to the genera Dickeya, Pectobacterium and Brenneria. Members of these genera, which cause numerous diseases in important food crops and ornamental plants, are presently distinguished mainly on the basis of their branching in phylogenetic trees. No biochemical or molecular characteristic is known that is uniquely shared by species from these genera. Hence, detailed studies using the above approaches were carried out on proteins from the genomes of these bacteria to identify molecular markers that are specific for them. In phylogenetic trees based upon concatenated sequences for 23 conserved proteins, members of the genera Dickeya, Pectobacterium and Brenneria formed a strongly supported clade within the other Enterobacteriales. Comparative analysis of protein sequences from the Dickeya, Pectobacterium and Brenneria genomes has identified 10 CSIs and five CSPs that are either uniquely or largely found in all genome-sequenced species from these genera, but not present in any other bacteria in the database. In addition, our analyses have identified 10 CSIs and 17 CSPs that are specifically present in either all or most sequenced Dickeya species/strains, and six CSIs and 19 CSPs that are uniquely found in the sequenced Pectobacterium genomes. Finally, our analysis also identified three CSIs and one CSP that are specifically shared by members of the genera Pectobacterium and Brenneria, but absent in species of the genus Dickeya, indicating that the former two genera shared a common ancestor exclusive of Dickeya. The identified CSIs and CSPs provide novel tools for identification of members of the genera Dickeya and Pectobacterium and for delimiting these taxa in molecular terms. Descriptions of the genera Dickeya and Pectobacterium have been revised to provide information for these molecular markers. Biochemical studies on these CSIs and CSPs, which are specific for these genera, may lead to discovery of novel properties that are unique to these bacteria and which could be targeted to develop antibacterial agents that are specific for these plant-pathogenic bacteria.
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