Recently, large discrepancies have been identified between microsporidian systematics based on molecular and traditional characteristics. In the current study the 530f–580r region of the rRNA gene of eight microsporidian species was cloned and sequenced. Included were two unclassified species of Microsporidium Balbiani, 1884 and an unidentified microsporidian that infects the musculature of different sea bream species. Sequence identities in excess of 98% indicated that these three species almost certainly are members of the same genus. Phylogenetic analyses of all microsporidian sequence data available for this region of the gene (20 species) and for partial small subunit sequences (51 species of 21 genera) revealed these species to be distinct from the family Pleistophoridae Doflein, 1901 and closely related them to the genus Spraguea Weissenberg, 1976. This clade was found to comprise a sister taxon to that containing the vast majority of fish-infecting species. Broad cladistic divisions were found between terrestrial insect-infecting and fish-infecting species, which together are distant from the aquatic insect-infecting microsporidia. The rRNA gene of certain fish-infecting genera was found to be more highly conserved than previously reported. This has implications for its utility in diagnostic assays and phylogenetic studies at, or close to, the species level.
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Vol. 48 • No. 3