Phylogenetic Positions of 'Candidatus Phytoplasma Asteris' and Spiroplasma Kunkelii as Inferred From Multiple Sets of Concatenated Core Housekeeping Proteins

Int J Syst Evol Microbiol. 2005 Sep;55(Pt 5):2131-2141. doi: 10.1099/ijs.0.63655-0.


Phytopathogenic mollicutes, which include spiroplasmas and phytoplasmas, are cell wall-less bacteria that parasitize plant hosts and insect vectors. Knowledge of the evolution of these agents is important in understanding their biology. The availability of the first complete phytoplasma and several partial spiroplasma and phytoplasma genome sequences made possible an investigation of evolutionary relationships between phytopathogenic mollicutes and other micro-organisms, especially Gram-positive bacteria, using a comparative genomics approach. Genome data from a total of 41 bacterial species were used in the analysis. Sixty-one conserved proteins were selected from each species for the construction of a hypothetical phylogenetic tree. The genes encoding these selected proteins are among a core of genetic elements that constitute a hypothetical minimal genome. The proteins were concatenated into five superproteins according to their functional categories, and phylogenetic trees were reconstructed using distance, parsimony and likelihood methods. Phylogenetic trees based on the five sets of concatenated proteins were congruent in both clade topology and relative branching length. Spiroplasma kunkelii and phytoplasmas clustered together with other mollicutes, forming a monophyletic group. Phytoplasmas diverged from spiroplasmas and mycoplasmas at early stages in the evolution of mollicutes. Branch lengths on the phylogenetic trees were noticeably longer in the Mollicutes clade, suggesting that the genes encoding the five sets of proteins evolved at a greater rate in this clade than in other clades. This observation reinforces the concept that mollicutes have rapidly evolving genomes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Genomics
  • Mycoplasma / classification
  • Mycoplasma / genetics
  • Phylogeny*
  • Phytoplasma / classification*
  • Phytoplasma / genetics
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology
  • Ribosomal Proteins / genetics
  • Spiroplasma / classification*
  • Spiroplasma / genetics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Ribosomal Proteins