Genome-informed Bradyrhizobium taxonomy: where to from here?

Syst Appl Microbiol. 2019 Jul;42(4):427-439. doi: 10.1016/j.syapm.2019.03.006. Epub 2019 Apr 4.


Bradyrhizobium is thought to be the largest and most diverse rhizobial genus, but this is not reflected in the number of described species. Although it was one of the first rhizobial genera recognised, its taxonomy remains complex. Various contemporary studies are showing that genome sequence information may simplify taxonomic decisions. Therefore, the growing availability of genomes for Bradyrhizobium will likely aid in the delineation and characterization of new species. In this study, we addressed two aims: first, we reviewed the availability and quality of available genomic resources for Bradyrhizobium. This was achieved by comparing genome sequences in terms of sequencing technologies used and estimated level of completeness for inclusion in genome-based phylogenetic analyses. Secondly, we utilized these genomes to investigate the taxonomic standing of Bradyrhizobium in light of its diverse lifestyles. Although genome sequences differed in terms of their quality and completeness, our data indicate that the use of these genome sequences is adequate for taxonomic purposes. By using these resources, we inferred a fully resolved, well-supported phylogeny. It separated Bradyrhizobium into seven lineages, three of which corresponded to the so-called supergroups known for the genus. Wide distribution of key lifestyle traits such as nodulation, nitrogen fixation and photosynthesis revealed that these traits have complicated evolutionary histories. We present the first robust Bradyrhizobium species phylogeny based on genome sequence information for investigating the evolution of this important assemblage of bacteria. Furthermore, this study provides the basis for using genome sequence information as a resource to make important taxonomic decisions, particularly at the species and genus levels.

Keywords: Bradyrhizobium elkanii; Bradyrhizobium japonicum; Nodulation; Photosynthesis; Photosynthetic Bradyrhizobium; Phylogenomics.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Bradyrhizobium / classification*
  • Bradyrhizobium / genetics
  • Classification / methods*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Genes, Bacterial / genetics
  • Genome, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Nitrogen Fixation / genetics
  • Photosynthesis / genetics
  • Phylogeny*
  • Plant Root Nodulation / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S