Volume 49 (2003) Issue 3 Pages 155-179
As of February 2003, bacteria that form nitrogen-fixing symbiotic associations with legumes have been confirmed in 44 species of 12 genera. Phylogenies of these taxa containing legume symbionts based on the comparative analysis of 16S rDNA sequences show that they are not clustered in one lineage but are distributed in the classes Alphaproteobacteria and Betaproteobacteria, and dispersed over the following nine monophyletic groups, being intermingled with other taxa that do not contain legume symbionts (shown in parentheses below): Group 1, which comprises Rhizobium and Allorhizobium species containing legume symbionts (intermingled with Agrobacterium and Blastobacter species, which are nonsymbionts); Group 2, Sinorhizobium and Ensifer species (with unclassified nonsymbionts); Group 3, Mesorhizobium species (with nonsymbiotic Aminobacter and Pseudaminobacter species); Group 4, Bradyrhizobium species and Blastobacter denitrificans (with nonsymbiotic Agromonas, Nitrobacter, Afipia, and Rhodopseudomonas species); Group 5, “Methylobacterium nodulans” (with nonsymbiotic Methylobacterium species); Group 6, Azorhizobium species (with nonsymbiotic Xanthobacter and Aquabacter species); Group 7, “Devosia neptuniae” (with nonsymbiotic Devosia species and unclassified nonsymbionts); Group 8, symbiotic Burkholderia strains (with nonsymbiotic Burkholderia species); and Group 9, Ralstonia taiwanensis (with nonsymbiotic Ralstonia species). For Groups 5, 8, and 9, the present classification, in which “each monophyletic group comprises one genus wherein legume symbionts and nonsymbionts are intermingled with each other, ” is considered to be retained as is because they are clearly separated from other genera at high bootstrap values and have already been sufficiently characterized based on polyphasic taxonomy. As for the remaining six monophyletic groups, on the other hand, there are currently three options for emending their current classification (definitions and circumscriptions) at the generic level: A) the current classification shall be retained as is; B) all the genera within each monophyletic group shall be amalgamated into one single genus in conformity with the results of phylogenetic analysis; or C) each subordinate lineage in each monophyletic group shall be proposed as a genus. It is considered that research and discussions will be continuously conducted for emending the classification of these monophyletic groups based chiefly on Options B and C as preferable candidates.