Segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) are nonpathogenic bacteria that are commonly found attached to the intestinal walls of many animals. Until now, these bacteria have not been cultured in vitro. Recently, a 16S rRNA sequence analysis revealed that SFB isolated from mice represent a distinct subline within the Clostridium subphylum of the gram-positive bacteria. Since SFB isolated from mice, rats, and chickens are known to be host specific, we investigated the phylogenetic relationships among SFB obtained from these three hosts. Total DNAs from the intestinal floras of chickens and rats were used as templates for PCR amplification of 16S rRNA genes. PCR products were cloned and screened by a dot blot hybridization procedure to identify homologous sequences that cross-reacted with mouse SFB-specific oligonucleotide probes. A phylogenetic analysis of these 16S ribosomal DNA sequences revealed that SFB isolated from these three hosts form a natural group, which is peripherally related to the genus Clostridium sensu stricto (group I Clostridium). The SFB obtained from chickens, rats, and mice had closely related, albeit different, 16S rRNA gene sequences. The observed levels of 16S rRNA sequence divergence, ca. 1.5 to 3%, together with host specificity, suggest that SFB isolated from mice, rats, and chickens represent different species and that coevolution of the SFB and their hosts occurred. "Candidatus Arthromitus" is proposed as the provisional generic name for this group of organisms.