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Sci Rep. 2015 Sep 16;5:14082. doi: 10.1038/srep14082.

Genomic insights into the taxonomic status of the Bacillus cereus group.

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State Key Laboratory Breeding Base of Marine Genetic Resources; Key Laboratory of Marine Genetic Resources, Third Institute of Oceanography, SOA; South China Sea Bio-Resource Exploitation and Utilization Collaborative Innovation Centre; Fujian Collaborative Innovation Center for Exploitation and Utilization of Marine Biological Resources; Key Laboratory of Marine Genetic Resources of Fujian Province, Xiamen 361005, China.
Leibniz Institute DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures GmbH, Inhoffenstraβe 7B, 38124, Braunschweig, Germany.
TEDA School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology Nankai University, Tianjin, China.


The identification and phylogenetic relationships of bacteria within the Bacillus cereus group are controversial. This study aimed at determining the taxonomic affiliations of these strains using the whole-genome sequence-based Genome BLAST Distance Phylogeny (GBDP) approach. The GBDP analysis clearly separated 224 strains into 30 clusters, representing eleven known, partially merged species and accordingly 19-20 putative novel species. Additionally, 16S rRNA gene analysis, a novel variant of multi-locus sequence analysis (nMLSA) and screening of virulence genes were performed. The 16S rRNA gene sequence was not sufficient to differentiate the bacteria within this group due to its high conservation. The nMLSA results were consistent with GBDP. Moreover, a fast typing method was proposed using the pycA gene, and where necessary, the ccpA gene. The pXO plasmids and cry genes were widely distributed, suggesting little correlation with the phylogenetic positions of the host bacteria. This might explain why classifications based on virulence characteristics proved unsatisfactory in the past. In summary, this is the first large-scale and systematic study of the taxonomic status of the bacteria within the B. cereus group using whole-genome sequences, and is likely to contribute to further insights into their pathogenicity, phylogeny and adaptation to diverse environments.

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