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Front Microbiol. 2016 Feb 11;7:149. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00149. eCollection 2016.

16S-23S rRNA Gene Intergenic Spacer Region Variability Helps Resolve Closely Related Sphingomonads.

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Department of Natural Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, Lebanese American University Byblos, Lebanon.


Sphingomonads comprise a physiologically versatile group many of which appear to be adapted to oligotrophic environments, but several also had features in their genomes indicative of host associations. In this study, the extent variability of the 16S-23S rDNA intergenic spacer (ITS) sequences of 14 ATCC reference sphingomonad strains and 23 isolates recovered from drinking water was investigated through PCR amplification and sequencing. Sequencing analysis of the 16S-23S rRNA gene ITS region revealed that the ITS sizes for all studied isolates varied between 415 and 849 bp, while their G+C content was 42.2-57.9 mol%. Five distinct ITS types were identified: ITS(none) (without tRNA genes), ITS(Ala(TGC)), ITS(Ala(TGC)+Ile(GAT)), ITS(Ile(GAT)+Ala(TGC)), and ITS (Ile(GAT)+Pseudo). All of the identified tRNA(Ala(TGC)) molecules consisted of 73 bases, and all of the tRNA(Ile(GAT)) molecules consisted of 74 bases. We also detected striking variability in the size of the ITS region among the various examined isolates. Highest variability was detected within the ITS-2. The importance of this study is that this is the first comparison of the 16S-23S rDNA ITS sequence similarities and tRNA genes from sphingomonads. Collectively the data obtained in this study revealed the heterogeneity and extent of variability within the ITS region compared to the 16S rRNA gene within closely related isolates. Sequence and length polymorphisms within the ITS region along with the ITS types (tRNA-containing or lacking and the type of tRNA) and ITS-2 size and sequence similarities allowed us to overcome the limitation we previously encountered in resolving closely related isolates based on the 16S rRNA gene sequence.


16S–23S intergenic spacer sequence; ITS-2; phylogeny; sphingomonad

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