Protein-encoding and 16S rRNA genes of Pasteuria penetrans populations from a wide range of geographic locations were examined. Most interpopulation single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were detected in the 16S rRNA gene. However, in order to fully resolve all populations, these were supplemented with SNPs from protein-encoding genes in a multilocus SNP typing approach. Examination of individual 16S rRNA gene sequences revealed the occurrence of “cryptic” SNPs which were not present in the consensus sequences of any P. penetrans population. Additionally, hierarchical cluster analysis separated P. penetrans 16S rRNA gene clones into four groups, and one of which contained sequences from the most highly passaged population, demonstrating that it is possible to manipulate the population structure of this fastidious bacterium. The other groups were made from representatives of the other populations in various proportions. Comparison of sequences among three Pasteuria species, namely, P. penetrans, P. hartismeri, and P. ramosa, showed that the protein-encoding genes provided greater discrimination than the 16S rRNA gene. From these findings, we have developed a toolbox for the discrimination of Pasteuria at both the inter- and intraspecies levels. We also provide a model to monitor genetic variation in other obligate hyperparasites and difficult-to-culture microorganisms
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