Molecular signatures for the phylum Aquificae and its different clades: proposal for division of the phylum Aquificae into the emended order Aquificales, containing the families Aquificaceae and Hydrogenothermaceae, and a new order Desulfurobacteriales ord. nov., containing the family Desulfurobacteriaceae
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We report here detailed phylogenetic and comparative analyses on 11 sequenced genomes from the phylum Aquificae to identify molecular markers that are specific for the species from this phylum or its different families (viz. Aquificaceae, Hydrogenothermaceae and Desulfurobacteriaceae). In phylogenetic trees based on 16S rRNA gene or concatenated sequences for 32 conserved proteins, species from the three Aquificae families formed distinct clades. These trees also supported a strong relationship between the Aquificaceae and Hydrogenothermaceae families. In parallel, comparative analyses on protein sequences from Aquificae genomes have identified 46 conserved signature indels (CSIs) in broadly distributed proteins that are either exclusively or mainly found in members of the phylum Aquificae or its different families and subclades. Four of these CSIs, which are found in all sequenced Aquificae species, provide potential molecular markers for this phylum. Twelve, six and thirteen other CSIs that respectively are specific for the sequenced Aquificaceae, Hydrogenothermaceae and Desulfurobacteriaceae species provide molecular markers and novel tools for the identification of members of these families and for genetic and biochemical studies on them. Lastly, these studies have identified 11 CSIs in divergent proteins that are uniquely shared by members of the Aquificaceae and Hydrogenothermaceae families providing strong evidence that these two groups of bacteria shared a common ancestor exclusive of all other Aquificae (bacteria). The species from these two families are also very similar in their metabolic and physiological properties and they consist of aerobic or microaerophilic bacteria, which generally obtain energy by oxidation of hydrogen or reduced sulfur compounds by molecular oxygen. Based upon their strong association in phylogenetic trees, unique shared presence of large numbers of CSIs in different proteins, and similarities in their metabolic and physiological properties, it is proposed that the order Aquificales should be emended to include only the members of the families Aquificaceae and Hydrogenothermaceae. The members of the family Desulfurobacteriaceae, which are obligate anaerobes that strictly use hydrogen as electron donor, are now transferred to a new order Desulfurobacteriales ord. nov. The emended descriptions of the phylum Aquificae and its three families incorporating information for different molecular signatures are also provided.