The phylogeny, abundance, and biogeography of the NOR5/OM60 clade was investigated. This clade includes "Congregibacter litoralis" strain KT71, the first cultured representative of marine aerobic anoxygenic phototrophic Gammaproteobacteria. More than 500 16S rRNA sequences affiliated with this clade were retrieved from public databases. By comparative sequence analysis, 13 subclades could be identified, some of which are currently restricted to discrete habitat types. Almost all sequences in the largest subclade NOR5-1 and related subclade NOR5-4 originated from marine surface water samples. Overall, most of the NOR5/OM60 sequences were retrieved from marine coastal settings, whereas there were fewer from open-ocean surface waters, deep-sea sediment, freshwater, saline lakes and soil. The abundance of members of the NOR5/OM60 clade in various marine sites was determined by fluorescence in situ hybridization using a newly designed and optimized probe set. Relative abundances in coastal marine waters off Namibia and the Yangtze estuary were up to 3% of the total 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) counts, and in the German Bight off Helgoland the abundance was even up to 7%. In an open-ocean North Atlantic transect, between Iceland and the Azores, the NOR5/OM60 group was much less abundant (0.1-0.5%). Interestingly, the surface layer of North Sea intertidal sediments was very rich in NOR5/OM60, with absolute numbers >10(8) cells cm(-3) (or 4% of the total DAPI). An analysis of the frequencies of NOR5/OM60 16S rRNA genes in the Global Ocean Survey datasets provided further support for a marine cosmopolitan occurrence of NOR5/OM60, and a clear preference for coastal marine waters.