The systematic relationships of intracellular bacteria of 13 Camponotus species (carpenter ants) from America and Europe were compared to those of their hosts. Phylogenetic trees of the bacteria and the ants were based on 16S rDNA (rrs) gene sequences and mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene sequences, respectively. The bacterial endosymbionts of Camponotus spp. form a distinct lineage in the y-subclass of the Proteobacteria. The taxa most closely related to these bacteria are endosymbionts of aphids and the tsetse fly. The bacterial and host phylogenies deduced from the sequence data show a high degree of congruence, providing significant evidence for cospeciation of the bacteria and the ants and a maternal transmission route of the symbionts. The cloned rrs genes of the endosymbionts contain putative intervening sequences (IVSs) with a much lower G+C content than the mean of the respective rrs genes. By in situ hybridization specific 16S rDNA oligonucleotide probes verified the presence of the bacteria within tissues of three of the eukaryotic hosts. It is proposed that the endosymbionts of these three carpenter ants be assigned to a new taxon 'Candidatus Blochmannia gen. nov.' with the symbionts of the individual ants being species named according to their host, 'Candidatus Blochmannia floridanus sp. nov.', 'Candidatus Blochmannia herculeanus sp. nov.' and 'Candidatus Blochmannia rufipes sp. nov.'.


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