• Fatty acid pattern;
  • RNA sequence;
  • Phylogenetic relationship;
  • Bacterial evolution;
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria

Abstract Twenty-five isolates of dissimilatory sulfate-reducing bacteria were clustered based on similarity analysis of their phospholipid ester-linked fatty acids (PLFA). Of these, 22 showed that phylogenetic relationships based on the sequence similarity of their 16S rRNA directly paralleled the PLFA relationships. Desulfobacter latus and Desulfobacter curvatus grouped with the other Desulfobacter spp. by 16S rRNA comparison but not with the PLFA analysis as they contained significantly more monoenoic PLFA than the others. Similarly, Desulfovibrio africanus clustered with the Desulfovibrio spp. by 16S rRNA but not with them when analyzed by PLFA patterns because of higher monoenoic PLFA content. Otherwise, clustering obtained with either analysis was essentially congruent. The relationships defined by PLFA patterns appeared robust to shifts in nutrients and terminal electron acceptors. Additional analyses utilizing the lipopolysaccharide-lipid A hydroxy fatty acid patterns appeared not to shift the relationships based on PLFA significantly except when completely absent, as in Gram-positive bacteria. Phylogenetic relationships between isolates defined by 16S rRNA sequence divergence represent a selection clearly different from the multi-enzyme activities responsible for the PLFA patterns. Determination of bacterial relationships based on different selective pressures for various cellular components provides more clues to evolutionary history leading to a more rational nomenclature.