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Environ Microbiol. 2008 Apr;10(4):851-65. Epub 2007 Nov 25.

Ecological diversification in the Bacillus cereus Group.

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1
Institut National de Recherche Agronomique, UMR A408 Sécurité et Qualité des Produits d'Origine Végétale, INRA, Domaine Saint-Paul, Site Agroparc, F-84914 Avignon Cedex 9, France. guinebre@avignon.inra.fr

Abstract

The Bacillus cereus Group comprises organisms that are widely distributed in the environment and are of health and economic interest. We demonstrate an 'ecotypic' structure of populations in the B. cereus Group using (i) molecular data from Fluorescent Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism patterns, ribosomal gene sequences, partial panC gene sequences, 'psychrotolerant' DNA sequence signatures and (ii) phenotypic and descriptive data from range of growth temperature, psychrotolerance and thermal niches. Seven major phylogenetic groups (I to VII) were thus identified, with ecological differences that provide evidence for a multiemergence of psychrotolerance in the B. cereus Group. A moderate thermotolerant group (VII) was basal to the mesophilic group I, from which in turn distinct thermal lineages have emerged, comprising two mesophilic groups (III, IV), an intermediate group (V) and two psychrotolerant groups (VI, II). This stepwise evolutionary transition toward psychrotolerance was particularly well illustrated by the relative abundance of the 'psychrotolerant' rrs signature (as defined by Pruss et al.) copies accumulated in strains that varied according to the phylogenetic group. The 'psychrotolerant' cspA signature (as defined by Francis et al.) was specific to group VI and provided a useful way to differentiate it from the psychrotolerant group II. This study illustrates how adaptation to novel environments by the modification of temperature tolerance limits has shaped historical patterns of global ecological diversification in the B. cereus Group. The implications for the taxonomy of this Group and for the human health risk are discussed.

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