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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2008 Feb;279(2):167-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.2007.01025.x. Epub 2007 Dec 18.

Type IV secretion system components as phylogenetic markers of entomopathogenic bacteria of the genus Rickettsiella.

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Federal Biological Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry (BBA), Institute for Biological Control, Heinrichstrasse 243, Darmstadt, Germany.


The genus Rickettsiella (class Gammaproteobacteria; order Legionellales; family Coxiellaceae) comprises intracellular bacterial pathogens of a wide range of arthropods that are currently classified in the three recognized species, Rickettsiella popilliae, Rickettsiella grylli, and Rickettsiella chironomi. Rickettsiella bacteria contain a type IVB secretion system (T4SS) known to be a key virulence factor of the related genus Legionella. Providing the first respective sequence information for the nomenclatural type species, R. popilliae, the three T4SS components DotA, IcmB, and IcmQ were used as phylogenetic markers to test hypotheses implicit in the currently accepted taxonomic organization of Rickettsiella at the species, genus, and family level. These results, firstly, firmly corroborate the previous 16S rRNA gene-based coassignment of the species R. grylli and R. popilliae to the gamma-proteobacterial order Legionellales and, secondly, support the current classification of the investigated R. grylli and R. popilliae strains in different species of the same genus. In contrast, the analysis of intergeneric sequence distances does not lend support to the current taxonomic classification of the genus Rickettsiella in the family Coxiellaceae, but is consistent with a hierarchically neutral family-level assignment within the order Legionellales.

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