Prevotella nigrescens, Prevotella intermedia and Porphyromonas gingivalis are oral pathogens from the family Bacteroidaceae, regularly isolated from cases of gingivitis and periodontitis. In this study, the phylogenetic variability of these three bacterial species was investigated by means of 16S rRNA (rrs) gene sequence comparisons of a set of epidemiologically and geographically diverse isolates. For each of the three species, the rrs gene sequences of 11 clinical isolates as well as the corresponding type strains was determined. Comparison of all rrs sequences obtained with those of closely related species revealed a clear clustering of species, with only a little intraspecies variability but a clear difference in the rrs gene with respect to the next related taxon. The results indicate that the three species form stable, homogeneous genetic groups, which favours an rrs-based species identification of these oral pathogens. This is especially useful given the 7% sequence divergence between Prevotella intermedia and Prevotella nigrescens, since phenotypic distinction between the two Prevotella species is inconsistent or involves techniques not applicable in routine identification.


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