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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2007 Sep;71(3):495-548.

Genomics of Actinobacteria: tracing the evolutionary history of an ancient phylum.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Biology of Microorganisms, Anthropology and Evolution, University of Parma, parco Area delle Scienze 11a, 43100 Parma, Italy.


Actinobacteria constitute one of the largest phyla among bacteria and represent gram-positive bacteria with a high G+C content in their DNA. This bacterial group includes microorganisms exhibiting a wide spectrum of morphologies, from coccoid to fragmenting hyphal forms, as well as possessing highly variable physiological and metabolic properties. Furthermore, Actinobacteria members have adopted different lifestyles, and can be pathogens (e.g., Corynebacterium, Mycobacterium, Nocardia, Tropheryma, and Propionibacterium), soil inhabitants (Streptomyces), plant commensals (Leifsonia), or gastrointestinal commensals (Bifidobacterium). The divergence of Actinobacteria from other bacteria is ancient, making it impossible to identify the phylogenetically closest bacterial group to Actinobacteria. Genome sequence analysis has revolutionized every aspect of bacterial biology by enhancing the understanding of the genetics, physiology, and evolutionary development of bacteria. Various actinobacterial genomes have been sequenced, revealing a wide genomic heterogeneity probably as a reflection of their biodiversity. This review provides an account of the recent explosion of actinobacterial genomics data and an attempt to place this in a biological and evolutionary context.

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