Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Scientific Reports 7:11089. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-11363-1


Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


Microbial diversity studies using small subunit (SSU) rRNA gene sequences continue to advance our understanding of biological and ecological systems. Although a good predictor of overall diversity, using this gene to infer the presence of a species in a sample is more controversial. Here, we present a detailed polyphasic analysis of 10 bacterial strains isolated from three coastal lichens Lichina confinis, Lichina pygmaea and Roccella fuciformis with SSU rRNA gene sequences identical to the type strain of Streptomyces cyaneofuscatus. This analysis included phenotypic, microscopic, genetic and genomic comparisons and showed that despite their identical SSU rRNA sequences the strains had markedly different properties, and could be distinguished as 5 different species. Significantly, secondary metabolites profiles from these strains were also found to be different. It is thus clear that SSU rRNA based operational taxonomy units, even at the most stringent cut-off can represent multiple bacterial species, and that at least for the case of Streptomyces, strain de-replication based on SSU gene sequences prior to screening for bioactive molecules can miss potentially interesting novel molecules produced by this group that is notorious for the production of drug-leads.