Bacterial phylogeny based on comparative sequence analysis

Electrophoresis. 1998 Apr;19(4):554-68. doi: 10.1002/elps.1150190416.


Comparative sequence analysis of small subunit rRNA is currently one of the most important methods for the elucidation of bacterial phylogeny as well as bacterial identification. Phylogenetic investigations targeting alternative phylogenetic markers such as large subunit rRNA, elongation factors, and ATPases have shown that 16S rRNA-based trees reflect the history of the corresponding organisms globally. However, in comparison with three to four billion years of evolution the phylogenetic information content of these markers is limited. Consequently, the limited resolution power of the marker molecules allows only a spot check of the evolutionary history of microorganisms. This is often indicated by locally different topologies of trees based on different markers, data sets or the application of different treeing approaches. Sequence peculiarities as well as methods and parameters for data analysis were studied with respect to their effects on the results of phylogenetic investigations. It is shown that only careful data analysis starting with a proper alignment, followed by the analysis of positional variability, rates and character of change, testing various data selections, applying alternative treeing methods and, finally, performing confidence tests, allows reasonable utilization of the limited phylogenetic information.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genetic Markers
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • RNA, Bacterial / classification
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA


  • Genetic Markers
  • RNA, Bacterial