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Syst Appl Microbiol. 2006 Jun;29(4):315-32. Epub 2006 Jan 25.

Molecular phylogeny based on the 16S rRNA gene of elite rhizobial strains used in Brazilian commercial inoculants.

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Embrapa Soja, Cx. Postal 231, 86001-970, Londrina, PR, Brazil.


Nitrogen is often a limiting nutrient, therefore the sustainability of food crops, forages and green manure legumes is mainly associated with their ability to establish symbiotic associations with stem and root-nodulating N2-fixing rhizobia. The selection, identification and maintenance of elite strains for each host are critical. Decades of research in Brazil resulted in a list of strains officially recommended for several legumes, but their genetic diversity is poorly known. This study aimed at gaining a better understanding of phylogenetic relationships of 68 rhizobial strains recommended for 64 legumes, based on the sequencing of the 16S rRNA genes. The strains were isolated from a wide range of legumes, including all three subfamilies and 17 tribes. Nine main phylogenetic branches were defined, seven of them related to the rhizobial species: Bradyrhizobium japonicum, B. elkanii, Rhizobium tropici, R. leguminosarum, Sinorhizobium meliloti/S. fredii, Mesorhizobium ciceri/M. loti, and Azorhizobium caulinodans. However, some strains differed by up to 35 nucleotides from the type strains, which suggests that they may represent new species. Two other clusters included bacteria showing similarity with the genera Methylobacterium and Burkholderia, and amplification with primers for nifH and/or nodC regions was achieved with these strains. Host specificity of several strains was very low, as they were capable of nodulating legumes of different tribes and subfamilies. Furthermore, host specificity was not related to 16S rRNA, therefore evolution of ribosomal and symbiotic genes may have been diverse. Finally, the great diversity observed in this study emphasizes that tropics are an important reservoir of N2-fixation genes.

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