How close is close: 16S rRNA sequence identity may not be sufficient to guarantee species identity

Int J Syst Bacteriol. 1992 Jan;42(1):166-70. doi: 10.1099/00207713-42-1-166.


16S rRNA (genes coding for rRNA) sequence comparisons were conducted with the following three psychrophilic strains: Bacillus globisporus W25T (T = type strain) and Bacillus psychrophilus W16AT, and W5. These strains exhibited more than 99.5% sequence identity and within experimental uncertainty could be regarded as identical. Their close taxonomic relationship was further documented by phenotypic similarities. In contrast, previously published DNA-DNA hybridization results have convincingly established that these strains do not belong to the same species if current standards are used. These results emphasize the important point that effective identity of 16S rRNA sequences is not necessarily a sufficient criterion to guarantee species identity. Thus, although 16S rRNA sequences can be used routinely to distinguish and establish relationships between genera and well-resolved species, very recently diverged species may not be recognizable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus / classification
  • Bacillus / genetics*
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • RNA, Bacterial / chemistry*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / chemistry*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Associated data

  • GENBANK/X54967
  • GENBANK/X54968
  • GENBANK/X54969
  • GENBANK/X64236
  • GENBANK/X64237
  • GENBANK/X64238
  • GENBANK/X64239
  • GENBANK/X64240
  • GENBANK/X64241
  • GENBANK/X64242