The diversity of myxobacteria in a soil niche was explored using culture-dependent and -independent methods. Conventional cultivation for bacteriolytic myxobacteria produced six types of myxobacteria, which were identified as two Myxococcus spp., two Corallococcus spp., a Cystobacter sp. and a Nannocysts sp. Hybridization analysis of the soil bacterial 16S rRNA gene library with myxobacteria-specific probes revealed that myxobacteria accounted for less than 1% in the bacterial community. A Cystobacterineae 16S rRNA genes-rich library was further established from the soil DNA by polymerase chain reaction amplification with a Cystobacterineae-specific primer combined with a universal bacterial primer. Screening of the special library using Cystobacterineae- and Sorangineae-specific probes produced approximately 45% and 3% positive signals respectively. Sixty-four positive clones were randomly selected for sequencing. Except three repeats, the sequences were diverse ranging from 0.3% to 21.3%, and homologous with the known myxobacteria at 77.6–99.8%, including 57 in Cystobacterineae, one close to Nannocystis and three much more distant from the known myxobacteria. The sequences in the Cystobacterineae can further be divided into at least 12 groups, of which most were unreported. The results suggest that myxobacteria in nature are much more diverse than were ever known, even in one soil niche.
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