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Andreas Bøggild

A taxonomic framework for cable bacteria and proposal of the candidate genera Electrothrix and Electronema

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Cable bacteria are long, multicellular filaments that can conduct electric currents over centimeter-scale distances. All cable bacteria identified to date belong to the deltaproteobacterial family Desulfobulbaceae and have not been isolated in pure culture yet. Their taxonomic delineation and exact phylogeny is uncertain, as most studies so far have reported only short partial 16S rRNA sequences or have relied on identification by a combination of filament morphology and 16S rRNA-targeted fluorescence in situ hybridization with a Desulfobulbaceae-specific probe. In this study, nearly full-length 16S rRNA gene sequences of 16 individual cable bacteria filaments from freshwater, salt marsh, and marine sites of four geographic locations are presented. These sequences formed a distinct, monophyletic sister clade to the genus Desulfobulbus and could be divided into six coherent, species-level clusters, arranged as two genus-level groups. The same grouping was retrieved by phylogenetic analysis of full or partial dsrAB genes encoding the dissimilatory sulfite reductase. Based on these results, it is proposed to accommodate cable bacteria within two novel candidate genera: the mostly marine “Candidatus Electrothrix”, with four candidate species, and the mostly freshwater “Candidatus Electronema”, with two candidate species. This taxonomic framework can be used to assign environmental sequences confidently to the cable bacteria clade, even without morphological information. Database searches revealed 185 16S rRNA gene sequences that affiliated within the clade formed by the proposed cable bacteria genera, of which 120 sequences could be assigned to one of the six candidate species, while the remaining 65 sequences indicated the existence of up to five additional species.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSystematic and Applied Microbiology
Pages (from-to)297-306
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016

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