Summary: A polyphasic approach to bacterial taxonomy attempts to integrate phylogenetic relationships with phenotypic marker analysis. This study describes the application of membrane fatty acids as a phenotypic marker for methylotrophs. Detailed phospholipid, ester-linked fatty acid (PLFA) profiles are reported for 17 methylotrophic eubacterial strains. These profiles included verification of double bond positions and geometries, both critical features for this analysis. Multivariate cluster analysis was used to indicate groupings of these strains along with literature values of both methylotrophs and non-methylotrophs based on the PLFA phenotype. Like many phenotypic characteristics, PLFA profiles were influenced by environmental conditions. The instabilities displayed, however, were predictable from physiological studies including increased and cyclopropyl/ ratios. Cluster analysis of PLFA profiles generated by separate investigators with different culture conditions indicated reproducibility by strain and species. The PLFA phenotype relationships compare favourably with phylogenetic associations based on 16S rRNA data for methylotrophs and will continue to be a valuable phenotypic marker for Proteobacteria taxonomy.


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