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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 1998 Sep;62(3):695-724.

Aerobic anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z3.


The aerobic anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria are a relatively recently discovered bacterial group. Although taxonomically and phylogenetically heterogeneous, these bacteria share the following distinguishing features: the presence of bacteriochlorophyll a incorporated into reaction center and light-harvesting complexes, low levels of the photosynthetic unit in cells, an abundance of carotenoids, a strong inhibition by light of bacteriochlorophyll synthesis, and the inability to grow photosynthetically under anaerobic conditions. Aerobic anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria are classified in two marine (Erythrobacter and Roseobacter) and six freshwater (Acidiphilium, Erythromicrobium, Erythromonas, Porphyrobacter, Roseococcus, and Sandaracinobacter) genera, which phylogenetically belong to the alpha-1, alpha-3, and alpha-4 subclasses of the class Proteobacteria. Despite this phylogenetic information, the evolution and ancestry of their photosynthetic properties are unclear. We discuss several current proposals for the evolutionary origin of aerobic phototrophic bacteria. The closest phylogenetic relatives of aerobic phototrophic bacteria include facultatively anaerobic purple nonsulfur phototrophic bacteria. Since these two bacterial groups share many properties, yet have significant differences, we compare and contrast their physiology, with an emphasis on morphology and photosynthetic and other metabolic processes.

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