Development of a database and standardized approach for rpoB sequence-based subtyping and identification of aerobic spore-forming Bacillales

Ahmed Gaballa, Rachel A. Cheng, Aljosa Trmcic, Jasna Kovac, David J. Kent, Nicole H. Martin, Martin Wiedmann

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4 Scopus citations


Aerobic spore-forming Bacillales are a highly diverse and ubiquitous group that includes organisms that cause foodborne illnesses and food spoilage. Classical microbiological and biochemical identification of members of the order Bacillales represents a challenge due to the diversity of organisms in this group as well as the fact that the phenotypic-based taxonomic assignment of some named species in this group is not consistent with their phylogenomic characteristics. DNA-sequencing-based tools, on the other hand, can be fast and cost-effective, and can provide for a more reliable identification and characterization of Bacillales isolates. In comparison to 16S rDNA, rpoB was shown to better discriminate between Bacillales isolates and to allow for improved taxonomic assignment to the species level. However, the lack of a publicly accessible rpoB database, as well as the lack of standardized protocols for rpoB-based typing and strain identification, is a major challenge. Here, we report (i) the curation of a DNA sequence database for rpoB-based subtype classification of Bacillales isolates; (ii) the development of standardized protocols for generating rpoB sequence data, and a scheme for rpoB-based initial taxonomic identification of Bacillales isolates at the species level; and (iii) the integration of the database in a publicly accessible online platform that allows for the analysis of rpoB sequence data from uncharacterized Bacillales isolates. Specifically, we curated a database of DNA sequences for a 632-nt internal variable region within the rpoB gene from representative Bacillales reference type strains and a large number of isolates that we have previously isolated and characterized through multiple projects. As of May 21, 2021, the rpoB database contained more than 8350 rpoB sequences representing 1902 distinct rpoB allelic types that can be classified into 160 different genera. The database also includes 1129 rpoB sequences for representative Bacillales reference type strains as available on May 21, 2021 in the NCBI database. The rpoB database is integrated into the online Food Microbe Tracker platform ( and can be queried using the integrated BLAST tool to initially subtype and taxonomically identify aerobic and facultative anaerobic spore-formers. While whole-genome sequencing is increasingly used in bacterial taxonomy, the rpoB sequence-based identification scheme described here provides a valuable tool as it allows for rapid and cost-effective initial isolate characterization, which can help to identify and characterize foodborne pathogens and food spoilage bacteria. In addition, the database and primers described here can also be adopted for metagenomics approaches that include rpoB as a target, improving discriminatory power and identification over what can be achieved using 16S rDNA as a target.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106350
JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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