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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Phylogenomic reconstruction of lactic acid bacteria: an update

Zhi-Gang Zhang1, Zhi-Qiang Ye13, Li Yu2* and Peng Shi1*

Author affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Laboratory of Evolutionary and Functional Genomics, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650223, PR China

2 Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-resource & Key Laboratory for Microbial Resources, Ministry of Education, Yunnan University, PR China

3 Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, PR China

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:1  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-1

Published: 1 January 2011



Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are important in the food industry for the production of fermented food products and in human health as commensals in the gut. However, the phylogenetic relationships among LAB species remain under intensive debate owing to disagreements among different data sets.


We performed a phylogenetic analysis of LAB species based on 232 genes from 28 LAB genome sequences. Regardless of the tree-building methods used, combined analyses yielded an identical, well-resolved tree topology with strong supports for all nodes. The LAB species examined were divided into two groups. Group 1 included families Enterococcaceae and Streptococcaceae. Group 2 included families Lactobacillaceae and Leuconostocaceae. Within Group 2, the LAB species were divided into two clades. One clade comprised of the acidophilus complex of genus Lactobacillus and two other species, Lb. sakei and Lb. casei. In the acidophilus complex, Lb. delbrueckii separated first, while Lb. acidophilus/Lb. helveticus and Lb. gasseri/Lb. johnsonii were clustered into a sister group. The other clade within Group 2 consisted of the salivarius subgroup, including five species, Lb. salivarius, Lb. plantarum, Lb. brevis, Lb. reuteri, Lb. fermentum, and the genera Pediococcus, Oenococcus, and Leuconostoc. In this clade, Lb. salivarius was positioned most basally, followed by two clusters, one corresponding to Lb. plantarum/Lb. brevis pair and Pediococcus, and the other including Oenococcus/Leuconostoc pair and Lb. reuteri/Lb. fermentum pair. In addition, phylogenetic utility of the 232 genes was analyzed to identify those that may be more useful than others. The genes identified as useful were related to translation and ribosomal structure and biogenesis (TRSB), and a three-gene set comprising genes encoding ultra-violet resistance protein B (uvrB), DNA polymerase III (polC) and penicillin binding protein 2B (pbpB).


Our phylogenomic analyses provide important insights into the evolution and diversification of LAB species, and also revealed the phylogenetic utility of several genes. We infer that the occurrence of multiple, independent adaptation events in LAB species, have resulted in their occupation of various habitats. Further analyses of more genes from additional, representative LAB species are needed to reveal the molecular mechanisms underlying adaptation of LAB species to various environmental niches.