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Microbiology. 2001 Apr;147(Pt 4):981-93.

Classification of rhizobia based on nodC and nifH gene analysis reveals a close phylogenetic relationship among Phaseolus vulgaris symbionts.

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Laboratoire de Microbiologie des Sols, Centre de Microbiologie du Sol et de l'Environnement, INRA, 17 rue Sully, BP 86510,F-21065 Dijon Cedex, France.


The nodC and nifH genes were characterized in a collection of 83 rhizobial strains which represented 23 recognized species distributed in the genera Rhizobium, Sinorhizobium, Mesorhizobium and Bradyrhizobium, as well as unclassified rhizobia from various host legumes. Conserved primers were designed from available nucleotide sequences and were able to amplify nodC and nifH fragments of about 930 bp and 780 bp, respectively, from most of the strains investigated. RFLP analysis of the PCR products resulted in a classification of these rhizobia which was in general well-correlated with their known host range and independent of their taxonomic status. The nodC and nifH fragments were sequenced for representative strains belonging to different genera and species, most of which originated from Phaselous vulgaris nodules. Phylogenetic trees were constructed and revealed close relationships among symbiotic genes of the Phaseolus symbionts, irrespective of their 16S-rDNA-based classification. The nodC and nifH phylogenies were generally similar, but cases of incongruence were detected, suggesting that genetic rearrangements have occurred in the course of evolution. The results support the view that lateral genetic transfer across rhizobial species and, in some instances, across Rhizobium and Sinorhizobium genera plays a role in diversification and in structuring the natural populations of rhizobia.

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