Biogeography of a novel Ensifer meliloti clade associated with the Australian legume Trigonella suavissima

Bertrand Eardly, Patrick Eli, John Brockwell, Daniel Golemboski, Peter van Berkum

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5 Scopus citations


Here, we describe a novel clade within Ensifer meliloti and consider how geographic and ecological isolation contributed to the limited distribution of this group. Members of the genus Ensifer are best known for their ability to form nitrogenfixing symbioses with forage legumes of three related genera, Medicago L., Melilotus Mill., and Trigonella L., which are members of the tribe Trifolieae. These legumes have a natural distribution extending from the Mediterranean Basin through western Asia, where there is an unsurpassed number of species belonging to these genera. Trigonella suavissima L. is unusual in that it is the only species in the tribe Trifolieae that is native to Australia. We compared the genetic diversity and taxonomic placement of rhizobia nodulating T. suavissima with those of members of an Ensifer reference collection. Our goal was to determine if the T. suavissima rhizobial strains, like their plant host, are naturally limited to the Australian continent. We used multilocus sequence analysis to estimate the genetic relatedness of 56 T. suavissima symbionts to 28 Ensifer reference strains. Sequence data were partitioned according to the replicons in which the loci are located. The results were used to construct replicon-specific phylogenetic trees. In both the chromosomal and chromid trees, the Australian strains formed a distinct clade within E. meliloti. The strains also shared few alleles with Ensifer reference strains from other continents. Carbon source utilization assays revealed that the strains are also unusual in their ability to utilize 2-oxoglutarate as a sole carbon source. A strategy was outlined for locating similar strains elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere03446-16
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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