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Photosynth Res. 2010 Jun;104(2-3):103-11. doi: 10.1007/s11120-009-9516-1. Epub 2010 Jan 22.

Taxonomy, phylogeny, and ecology of the heliobacteria.

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Department of Microbiology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA.


Heliobacteria are a recently discovered group of anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria, first described in 1983. Heliobacteria contain bacteriochlorophyll g, a pigment unique to species of this group, and synthesize the simplest photosynthetic complexes of all known phototrophs. Also, unlike all other phototrophs, heliobacteria lack a mechanism for autotrophy and produce endospores. Four genera of heliobacteria containing a total of 10 species are known. Species of the genera Heliobacterium, Heliobacillus, and Heliophilum grow best at neutral pH, whereas species of Heliorestis are alkaliphilic. Heliobacterium, Heliobacillus, and Heliophilum species form one phylogenetic clade of heliobacteria, while Heliorestis species form a second within the phylum Firmicutes of the domain Bacteria. Heliobacteria have a unique ecology, being primarily terrestrial rather than aquatic phototrophs, and may have evolved a mutualistic relationship with plants, in particular, rice plants. The genome sequence of the thermophile Heliobacterium modesticaldum supports the hypothesis that heliobacteria are "minimalist phototrophs" and that they may have played a key role in the evolution of phototrophic bacteria.

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