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Systematic and Applied Microbiology
Vol. 38, No. 4, 2015; Pages: 237 – 245

Multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) in prokaryotic taxonomy

Stefanie P. Glaeser, Peter Kämpfer

Institut für Angewandte Mikrobiologie, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, D-35392 Giessen, Germany.


To obtain a higher resolution of the phylogenetic relationships of species within a genus or genera within a family, multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) is currently a widely used method. In MLSA studies, partial sequences of genes coding for proteins with conserved functions (‘housekeeping genes’) are used to generate phylogenetic trees and subsequently deduce phylogenies. However, MLSA is not only suggested as a phylogenetic tool to support and clarify the resolution of bacterial species with a higher resolution, as in 16S rRNA gene-based studies, but has also been discussed as a replacement for DNA–DNA hybridization (DDH) in species delineation. Nevertheless, despite the fact that MLSA has become an accepted and widely used method in prokaryotic taxonomy, no common generally accepted recommendations have been devised to date for either the whole area of microbial taxonomy or for taxa-specific applications of individual MLSA schemes. The different ways MLSA is performed can vary greatly for the selection of genes, their number, and the calculation method used when comparing the sequences obtained. Here, we provide an overview of the historical development of MLSA and critically review its current application in prokaryotic taxonomy by highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of the method's numerous variations. This provides a perspective for its future use in forthcoming genome-based genotypic taxonomic analyses.

Keywords: MLSA; MLST; Taxonomy; Resolution; Phylogeny

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