The tufB-secE-nusG-rplKAJL-rpoB Gene Cluster of the Liberibacters: Sequence Comparisons, Phylogeny and Speciation

Int J Syst Evol Microbiol. 2008 Jun;58(Pt 6):1414-21. doi: 10.1099/ijs.0.65641-0.


The rplKAJL-rpoBC operon or beta operon is a classic bacterial gene cluster, which codes for proteins K, A, J and L of the large ribosomal subunit, as well as proteins B (beta subunit) and C (beta' subunit) of RNA polymerase. In the early 1990s, the operon was obtained as a 2.6 kbp DNA fragment (In-2.6) by random cloning of DNA from periwinkle plants infected with the Poona (India) strain of the huanglongbing agent, later named 'Candidatus (Ca.) Liberibacter asiaticus'. DNA from periwinkle plants infected with the Nelspruit strain (South Africa) of 'Ca. L. africanus' was amplified with a primer pair designed from In-2.6 and yielded, after cloning and sequencing, a 1.7 kbp DNA fragment (AS-1.7) of the beta operon of 'Ca. L. africanus'. The beta operon of the American liberibacter, as well as the three upstream genes (tufB, secE, nusG), have now also been obtained by the technique of chromosome walking and extend over 4673 bp, comprising the following genes: tufB, secE, nusG, rplK, rplA, rplJ, rplL and rpoB. The sequence of the beta operon was also determined for a Brazilian strain of 'Ca. L. asiaticus', from nusG to rpoB (3025 bp), and was found to share 99 % identity with the corresponding beta operon sequences of an Indian and a Japanese strain. Finally, the beta operon sequence of 'Ca. L. africanus' was extended from 1673 bp (rplA to rpoB) to 3013 bp (nusG to rpoB), making it possible to compare the beta operon sequences of the African, Asian and American liberibacters over a length of approximately 3000 bp, from nusG to rpoB. While 'Ca. L. africanus' and 'Ca. L. asiaticus' shared 81.2 % sequence identity, the percentage for 'Ca. L. americanus' and 'Ca. L. africanus' was only 72.2 %, and identity for 'Ca. L. americanus' and 'Ca. L. asiaticus' was only 71.4 %. The approximately 3000 bp nusG-rpoB sequence was also used to construct a phylogenetic tree, and this tree was found to be identical to the known 16S rRNA gene sequence-based tree. These results confirm earlier findings that 'Ca. L. americanus' is a distinct liberibacter, more distantly related to 'Ca. L. africanus' and 'Ca. L. asiaticus' than 'Ca. L. africanus' is to 'Ca. L. asiaticus'. The dates of speciation have also been estimated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Chromosome Walking
  • Citrus sinensis / microbiology*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology*
  • Plant Leaves / microbiology
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Rhizobiaceae / classification*
  • Rhizobiaceae / genetics
  • Rhizobiaceae / isolation & purification
  • Ribosomal Proteins / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA*
  • Species Specificity
  • Vinca / microbiology*


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

Associated data

  • GENBANK/EF122254
  • GENBANK/EU078703