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ISME J. 2008 Mar;2(3):242-53. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2007.93. Epub 2008 Jan 31.

Metabolic evidence for biogeographic isolation of the extremophilic bacterium Salinibacter ruber.

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Marine Microbiology Group, Institut Mediterrani d'Estudis Avançats, Esporles, Spain.


The biogeography of prokaryotes and the effect of geographical barriers as evolutionary constraints are currently subjected to great debate. Some clear-cut evidence for geographic isolation has been obtained by genetic methods but, in many cases, the markers used are too coarse to reveal subtle biogeographical trends. Contrary to eukaryotic microorganisms, phenotypic evidence for allopatric segregation in prokaryotes has never been found. Here we present, for the first time, a metabolomic approach based on ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry to reveal phenotypic biogeographical discrimination. We demonstrate that strains of the cosmopolitan extremophilic bacterium Salinibacter ruber, isolated from different sites in the world, can be distinguished by means of characteristic metabolites, and that these differences can be correlated to their geographical isolation site distances. The approach allows distinct degrees of discrimination for isolates at different geographical scales. In all cases, the discriminative metabolite patterns were quantitative rather than qualitative, which may be an indication of geographically distinct transcriptional or posttranscriptional regulations.

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