A protein-based phylogenetic tree for gram-positive bacteria derived from hrcA, a unique heat-shock regulatory gene

Int J Syst Bacteriol. 1999 Oct;49 Pt 4:1387-94. doi: 10.1099/00207713-49-4-1387.


The dnaK operon from Bacillus subtilis and other Gram-positive bacteria with low G + C DNA content contains additional heat-shock genes, including hrcA. The hrcA gene encodes a transcription factor that negatively regulates heat-shock genes and is uniformly present in all Gram-positive bacteria studied to date. An hrcA homologue is also present in Synechocystis species, Leptospira interrogans, Chlamydia trachomatis, Caulobacter crescentus and Methanococcus jannaschii, organisms that diverged early on from the common ancestor of all Gram-positive bacteria and Proteobacteria, according to 16S rRNA phylogeny. A partial, protein-based phylogenetic tree, derived using amino acid sequence homology of hrcA proteins from Gram-positive bacteria, is presented here, and the results are compared with the phylogenetic trees generated from 16S rRNA, dnaK and dnaJ sequences. The location of the hrcA gene and the genome organization of the dnaK operon support the division of all Gram-positive bacteria into three major groups: one group contains high-G + C Gram-positive bacteria, and two others contain low-G + C Gram-positive bacteria. Among the Gram-positive bacteria with low G + C DNA content, the results indicate that there is a close phylogenetic relationship between Bacillus species and Clostridium species on the one hand and between Lactococcus lactis and Streptococcus mutans on the other. Streptomyces and Mycobacterium species also exhibited a close relationship. A hierarchical arrangement of Gram-positive bacteria based on HrcA sequences is proposed as an additional refinement of the phylogenetic relationships within this important bacterial group.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins*
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / classification*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / genetics*
  • HSP40 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Operon
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / chemistry
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • DnaJ protein, E coli
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • HSP40 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Repressor Proteins
  • dnaK protein, E coli