Small-subunit rRNA (SSU rRNA) sequencing is a powerful tool to detect, identify, and classify prokaryotic organisms, and there is currently an explosion of SSU rRNA sequencing in the microbiology community. We report unexpectedly high levels of intraspecific variation (within and between strains) of prokaryote SSU rRNA sequences deposited in GenBank. A total of 82% of the prokaryote species with two published SSU rRNA sequences had more variable positions than a 0.1% random sequencing error would predict, and 48% of these sequence pairs had more variable positions than predicted by a 1.0% random sequencing error. Other sources of sequence variability must account for some of this intraspecific variation. Given these results, phylogenetic studies and biodiversity estimates obtained by using prokaryotic SSU rRNA sequences cannot proceed under the assumption that rRNA sequences of single operons from single isolates adequately represent their taxa. Sequencing SSU rRNA molecules from multiple operons and multiple isolates is highly recommended to obtain meaningful phylogenetic hypotheses, as is careful attention to accurate strain identification.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Most cited this month Most Cited RSS feed

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error