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Environ Microbiol. 2011 Jul;13(7):1790-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2011.02488.x. Epub 2011 Apr 28.

A global census of nitrogenase diversity.

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1
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

Abstract

The global diversity of nitrogen-fixing microorganisms was assessed through construction and analysis of an aligned database of 16,989 nifH sequences. We conclude that the diversity of diazotrophs is still poorly described and that many organisms remain to be discovered. Our analyses indicate that diversity is not distributed evenly across phylogenetic groups or across environments and that some of the most diverse assemblages and environments remain the most poorly characterized. The majority of OTUs were rare, falling in the long tail of the frequency distribution. The most dominant OTUs fell into either the Cyanobacteria or the α, β, and γ Proteobacteria, and five of these dominant OTUs do not have any representatives cultivated in isolation. Soils contained the greatest diversity of nifH sequences of all of the environments surveyed. Cluster III, which is dominated by nifH sequences from obligate anaerobes, was found to contain the greatest diversity of all nifH lineages and is also the group for which diversity is the least sampled. Our findings provide context for ongoing efforts to explore diazotroph diversity, indicating specific groups and environments that remain poorly characterized.

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