The 16S-23S rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) of Roseobacter denitrificans, Roseobacter litoralis, Ruegeria algicola and strains of the recently described species Antarctobacter heliothermus and Roseovarius tolerans were analysed in order to examine DNA sequence variations and to draw conclusions about inter- and intraspecific relationships. A. heliothermus included four strains with an ITS fragment length of 1092 bp. Roseovarius tolerans was described on the basis of eight strains. Five of these harboured two ITS fragments of different lengths (959 and about 1100 bp), while the others had one fragment of either 1083 bp (two strains) or 1165 bp (one strain). ITS lengths of the related species Roseobacter denitrificans, Roseobacter litoralis and Ruegeria algicola were found to be 980, 984 and 1158 bp, respectively. Phylogenetic analyses of the DNA sequences allowed species affiliation of strains with sequence length differences of > 200 bp and recognition of relationships based on a well-supported ITS tree. The strains of A. heliothermus and Roseovarius tolerans each formed a monophyletic branch and they were separated from each other by Ruegeria algicola. This species was now clearly separated from Roseobacter denitrificans and Roseobacter litoralis, which corresponded to the new genus affiliation of Ruegeria algicola. These data were additionally supported by analyses of the structure, relative position and order of genes for tRNA(Ile) and tRNA(Ala) found within the ITS of each strain. Comparative DNA sequence analyses of ITS and 16S rDNA revealed limitations, on species and strain levels, with respect to the phylogenetic resolution of the 16S rDNA due to the limited number of informative (variable) sites, while ITS sequence analyses provided more variable and sufficiently conserved positions to discriminate between strains and to reconstruct their taxonomic relationships.


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