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Environ Microbiol. 2009 Dec;11(12):3179-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.02023.x. Epub 2009 Aug 12.

Eukaryotic diversity and phylogeny using small- and large-subunit ribosomal RNA genes from environmental samples.

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Unité d'Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, UMR CNRS 8079, Univ. Paris-Sud 11, bâtiment 360, 91405 Orsay Cedex, France.


The recent introduction of molecular techniques in eukaryotic microbial diversity studies, in particular those based in the amplification and sequencing of small-subunit ribosomal DNA (SSU rDNA), has revealed the existence of an unexpected variety of new phylotypes. The taxonomic ascription of the organisms bearing those sequences is generally deduced from phylogenetic analysis. Unfortunately, the SSU rDNA sequence alone has often not enough phylogenetic information to resolve the phylogeny of fast-evolving or very divergent sequences, leading to their misclassification. To address this problem, we tried to increase the phylogenetic signal by amplifying the complete eukaryotic rDNA cluster [i.e. the SSU rDNA, the internal transcribed spacers, the 5.8S rDNA and the large-subunit (LSU) rDNA] from environmental samples, and sequencing the SSU and LSU rDNA part of the clones. Using marine planktonic samples, we showed that surveys based on either SSU or SSU + LSU rDNA retrieved comparable diversity patterns. In addition, phylogenetic trees based on the concatenated SSU + LSU rDNA sequences showed better resolution, yielding good support for major eukaryotic groups such as the Opisthokonta, Rhizaria and Excavata. Finally, highly divergent SSU rDNA sequences, whose phylogenetic position was impossible to determine with the SSU rDNA data alone, could be placed correctly with the SSU + LSU rDNA approach. These results suggest that this method can be useful, in particular for the analysis of eukaryotic microbial communities rich in phylotypes of difficult phylogenetic ascription.

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