Karl-Heinz Schleifer

Ribocon GmbH, Bremen, Bremen, Germany

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Publications (76)184.63 Total impact

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    edited by Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften Leopoldina, 06/2014; Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina e.V. Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften., ISBN: 978-3-8047-3281-0
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    ABSTRACT: High quality 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequences from the type strains of all species with validly published names, as defined by the International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria, are a prerequisite for their accurate affiliations within the global genealogical classification and for the recognition of potential new taxa. During the last few years, the Living Tree Project (LTP) has taken care to create a high quality, aligned 16S and 23S rRNA gene sequence database of all type strains. However, the manual curation of the sequence dataset and type strain information revealed that a total of 552 "orphan" species (about 5.7% of the currently classified species) had to be excluded from the reference trees. Among them, 322 type strains were not represented by an SSU entry in the public sequence repositories. The remaining 230 type strains had to be discarded due to bad sequence quality. Since 2010, the LTP team has coordinated a network of researchers and culture collections in order to improve the situation by (re)-sequencing the type strains of these "orphan" species. As a result, we can now report 351 16S rRNA gene sequences of type strains. Nevertheless, 201 species could not be sequenced because cultivable type strains were not available (121), the cultures had either been lost or were never deposited in the first place (66), or it was not possible due to other constraints (14). The International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria provides a number of mechanisms to deal with the problem of missing type strains and we recommend that due consideration be given to the appropriate mechanisms in order to help solve some of these issues.
    Systematic and Applied Microbiology 02/2013; 36(1):69-73. · 3.29 Impact Factor
  • Systematic and Applied Microbiology 05/2011; 34(3):169-70. · 3.29 Impact Factor
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    Wolfgang Ludwig, Karl-Heinz Schleifer, William B Whitman
    01/2011: pages 1-13;
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    ABSTRACT: The "All-Species Living Tree Project" (LTP) provides the scientific community with a useful taxonomic tool consisting of a curated database of type strain sequences, a universal and optimized alignment and a single phylogenetic tree harboring all the type strains of the hitherto classified species. On the website http://www.arb-silva.de/projects/living-tree an update has been regularly maintained by including the 1301 new descriptions that have appeared in the validation and notification lists of the IJSEM journal. The topology of the 16S rRNA-based tree was validated with a detailed comparison against a collection of taxa-specific and broad-range trees made using different approaches, subsets of sequences and alignments. Seven percent of the classified species is still missing, as their type strains do not have a good quality SSU sequence. In addition, a new database of type strains for which adequate 23S rRNA entries existed in public repositories was built. Among the 8602 species with validly published names until February 2010, we were able to find good quality LSU representatives for 792 type strains, whereas around 91% of the complete catalogue still remains unsequenced. Despite the scarce representation of some groups in LSU databases, we have devised a highly optimized alignment and a reliable LSU tree in order to set up a stable phylogenetic starting point for taxonomic purposes. The current release corresponds to the fourth update of the project (LTPs102), and contains additional features which increase usability and compatibility. Use the contact address living-tree@arb-silva.de to provide additional input for the development of this taxonomic tool.
    Systematic and Applied Microbiology 10/2010; 33(6):291-9. · 3.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The order Rickettsiales (Alphaproteobacteria) is a well-known group containing obligate endocellular prokaryotes. The order encompasses three families (Rickettsiaceae, Anaplasmataceae, and Holosporaceae) and a fourth, family-level cluster, which includes only one candidate species, "Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii," as well as several unnamed bacterial symbionts. The broad host range exhibited by the members of the "Candidatus Midichloria" clade suggests their eventual relevance for a better understanding of the evolution of symbiosis and host specificity of Rickettsiales. In this paper, two new bacteria belonging to the "Candidatus Midichloria" clade, hosted by two different strains of the ciliate protist Euplotes harpa, are described on the basis of ultrastructural observations, comparative 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis, and an estimation of the percentage of infection. Ultrastructure of these bacteria shows some unusual features: one has an electron-dense cytoplasm, and the other one lacks a symbiosomal membrane. The latter was up to now considered an exclusive feature of bacteria belonging to the family Rickettsiaceae. 16S rRNA gene phylogenetic analysis unambiguously places the new bacteria in the "Candidatus Midichloria" clade, although their phylogenetic relationships with other members of the clade are not clearly resolved. This is the first report of a ciliate-borne bacterium belonging to the "Candidatus Midichloria" clade. On the basis of the data obtained, the two bacteria are proposed as two new candidate genera and species, "Candidatus Anadelfobacter veles" and "Candidatus Cyrtobacter comes."
    Applied and environmental microbiology 06/2010; 76(12):4047-54. · 3.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Aerobic sewage granules are dense, spherical biofilms, regarded as a useful and promising tool in wastewater treatment processes. Recent studies revealed that fungi can be implemented in biofilm formation. This study attempts to uncover the fungal diversity in aerobic granules by sequence analysis of the 18S and 5.8S rRNA genes and the internal transcribed spacer regions. For this purpose, appropriate PCR and sequencing primer sets were selected and an improved DNA isolation protocol was used. The sequences of 41 isolates were assigned to the taxonomic groups Pleosporaceae, Xylariales, Theleobolaceae, Claviceps, Aureobasidium, Candida boleticola, and Tremellomycetes within the fungi. It turned out that the fungal community composition in granules depended on the wastewater type and the phase of granule development.
    FEMS Microbiology Ecology 06/2009; 68(2):246-54. · 3.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Few reports on in situ mRNA detection in bacteria have been published, even though a major aim in environmental microbiology is to link function/activity to the identity of the organisms. This study reports a reliable approach for the in situ detection of nifH mRNA using fluorescence hybridization based on a previously described protocol for pmoA. nifH codes for a dinitrogenase reductase, a key enzyme in dinitrogen fixation. nifH mRNA was hybridized with a digoxigenin-labelled polynucleotide probe. The hybrid was detected with an anti-DIG-antibody labelled with horseradish peroxidase. Subsequently, the signal was amplified by catalyzed reporter deposition (CARD) with fluorochrome-labelled tyramides. Furthermore, the imaged organisms were identified using standard fluorescence in situ hybridization of rRNA. Thus, the approach enabled us specifically to link in situ the information from the dinitrogen fixation activity of an organism to its identity. Unexpectedly, the signals derived from nifH mRNA hybridization showed a distinct uneven pattern within the cells. This indicated that the method used could even give insights about the localization of the detected mRNA within the cell, which is a potential use of mRNA fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) that has not been reported up to now for bacterial cells.
    Systematic and Applied Microbiology 03/2009; 32(3):186-92. · 3.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Denitrification is an alternative type of anaerobic respiration in which nitrate is reduced to gaseous products via nitrite. The key step in this process is the reduction of nitrite to nitric oxide, which is catalyzed by two structurally different but functionally equivalent forms of nitrite reductase encoded by the nirK and nirS genes. Cultivation-independent studies based on these functional marker genes showed that in the environment there was a dominance of organisms with nirK and nirS genes presumably derived from organisms that have not been cultured yet. However, the phylogenetic affiliation of these organisms has not been resolved since the ability to denitrify is widespread in phylogenetically unrelated organisms. To unravel the phylogeny of the organisms from which the nitrite reductase (nirK) genes originated, one option is to use a special variant of whole-cell hybridization termed recognition of individual genes-fluorescence in situ hybridization (RING-FISH). In RING-FISH a multiply labeled transcript polynucleotide probe is used to detect a single gene on the bacterial chromosome during FISH. Here, RING-FISH was used with laboratory cultures and environmental samples, such as activated sludge. Furthermore, probe-based cell sorting using magnetic beads could also be carried out with mixtures of pure cultures, which led to effective depletion of the nirK-negative organism but capture of the nirK-positive organism, which was demonstrated by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis based on 16S rRNA genes. The results indicate that RING-FISH coupled with probe-based cell sorting could be used with environmental samples, which could provide a means for phylogenetic classification of nirK-type denitrifiers. Thus, the results of RING-FISH could increase our understanding of the phylogeny and function of denitrifying microorganisms in the environment.
    Applied and environmental microbiology 01/2009; 75(3):802-10. · 3.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The signing authors together with the journal Systematic and Applied Microbiology (SAM) have started an ambitious project that has been conceived to provide a useful tool especially for the scientific microbial taxonomist community. The aim of what we have called "The All-Species Living Tree" is to reconstruct a single 16S rRNA tree harboring all sequenced type strains of the hitherto classified species of Archaea and Bacteria. This tree is to be regularly updated by adding the species with validly published names that appear monthly in the Validation and Notification lists of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. For this purpose, the SAM executive editors, together with the responsible teams of the ARB, SILVA, and LPSN projects (www.arb-home.de, www.arb-silva.de, and www.bacterio.cict.fr, respectively), have prepared a 16S rRNA database containing over 6700 sequences, each of which represents a single type strain of a classified species up to 31 December 2007. The selection of sequences had to be undertaken manually due to a high error rate in the names and information fields provided for the publicly deposited entries. In addition, from among the often occurring multiple entries for a single type strain, the best-quality sequence was selected for the project. The living tree database that SAM now provides contains corrected entries and the best-quality sequences with a manually checked alignment. The tree reconstruction has been performed by using the maximum likelihood algorithm RAxML. The tree provided in the first release is a result of the calculation of a single dataset containing 9975 single entries, 6728 corresponding to type strain gene sequences, as well as 3247 additional high-fquality sequences to give robustness to the reconstruction. Trees are dynamic structures that change on the basis of the quality and availability of the data used for their calculation. Therefore, the addition of new type strain sequences in further subsequent releases may help to resolve certain branching orders that appear ambiguous in this first release. On the web sites: www.elsevier.de/syapm and www.arb-silva.de/living-tree, the All-Species Living Tree team will release a regularly updated database compatible with the ARB software environment containing the whole 16S rRNA dataset used to reconstruct "The All-Species Living Tree". As a result, the latest reconstructed phylogeny will be provided. In addition to the ARB file, a readable multi-FASTA universal sequence editor file with the complete alignment will be provided for those not using ARB. There is also a complete set of supplementary tables and figures illustrating the selection procedure and its outcome. It is expected that the All-Species Living Tree will help to improve future classification efforts by simplifying the selection of the correct type strain sequences. For queries, information updates, remarks on the dataset or tree reconstructions shown, a contact email address has been created (living-tree@arb-silva.de). This provides an entry point for anyone from the scientific community to provide additional input for the construction and improvement of the first tree compiling all sequenced type strains of all prokaryotic species for which names had been validly published.
    Systematic and Applied Microbiology 09/2008; 31(4):241-50. · 3.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the past, studies on the relationships of the bacterial phyla Planctomycetes, Chlamydiae, Lentisphaerae, and Verrucomicrobia using different phylogenetic markers have been controversial. Investigations based on 16S rRNA sequence analyses suggested a relationship of the four phyla, showing the branching order Planctomycetes, Chlamydiae, Verrucomicrobia/Lentisphaerae. Phylogenetic analyses of 23S rRNA genes in this study also support a monophyletic grouping and their branching order--this grouping is significant for understanding cell division, since the major bacterial cell division protein FtsZ is absent from members of two of the phyla Chlamydiae and Planctomycetes. In Verrucomicrobia, knowledge about cell division is mainly restricted to the recent report of ftsZ in the closely related genera Prosthecobacter and Verrucomicrobium. In this study, genes of the conserved division and cell wall (dcw) cluster (ddl, ftsQ, ftsA, and ftsZ) were characterized in all verrucomicrobial subdivisions (1 to 4) with cultivable representatives (1 to 4). Sequence analyses and transcriptional analyses in Verrucomicrobia and genome data analyses in Lentisphaerae suggested that cell division is based on FtsZ in all verrucomicrobial subdivisions and possibly also in the sister phylum Lentisphaerae. Comprehensive sequence analyses of available genome data for representatives of Verrucomicrobia, Lentisphaerae, Chlamydiae, and Planctomycetes strongly indicate that their last common ancestor possessed a conserved, ancestral type of dcw gene cluster and an FtsZ-based cell division mechanism. This implies that Planctomycetes and Chlamydiae may have shifted independently to a non-FtsZ-based cell division mechanism after their separate branchings from their last common ancestor with Verrucomicrobia.
    Journal of bacteriology 06/2008; 190(9):3192-202. · 3.94 Impact Factor
  • Andreas Peter Bauer, Wolfgang Ludwig, Karl-Heinz Schleifer
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    ABSTRACT: Escherichia coli K-12, B, C and W strains and their derivates are declared in biological safety guidelines as risk group 1 organisms as they are unable to colonise the human gut. Differentiation and identification of these safety strains is mainly based on pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), phage sensitivity tests or PCR-based methods. However, these methods are either tedious and time consuming (phage sensitivity, PFGE) or based on single specific fragments (PCR) or patterns (PFGE) lacking additional information for further differentiation of the strains. In the current study, subtractive hybridisation techniques were applied to detect specific DNA fragments which were used to design a microarray (chip) for accurate and simple identification of these organisms, and to differentiate them from other E. coli strains. The chip can be used to identify E. coli safety strains and monitor them during ongoing experiments for changes in their genome and culture purity. The hybridisation layout of the microarray was arranged in such a way that the respective lineages of safety strains could be easily identified as distinct letters (K, B, C or W). Differentiation of single strains or subtyping was possible with further probes. In addition, a set of probes targeting genes coding for common virulence factors has been included, both to differentiate safety strains from pathogenic variants and to make sure that no transfer of these genes happens during handling or storage. The reliability of the approach has been tested on a comprehensive selection of E. coli laboratory strains and pathogenic representatives.
    Systematic and Applied Microbiology 04/2008; 31(1):50-61. · 3.29 Impact Factor
  • Karl-Heinz Schleifer
    Research in Microbiology 01/2008; 159(1):45-8. · 2.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Prosthecobacter, one of the few cultivable representatives of the bacterial phylum Verrucomicrobia, is of increasing interest to the scientific community due to the presence of tubulin genes in its genome and the apparent absence of the bacterial homologue FtsZ that is normally involved in prokaryotic cell division. These findings suggested the possibility of a vicarious takeover of the FtsZ function through these novel tubulins and opened new scenarios on the possible evolution of bacterial cytoskeleton and cell division. In the present manuscript, we report the characterization of ftsZ and ftsA homologues in different Prosthecobacter species that also possess tubulin genes. Based on these findings, we propose an FtsZ-based cell division mechanism in Verrucomicrobia. The analysis of available genome data of Verrucomicrobia suggests that tubulins are not a feature common to all members of this phylum. Therefore, it can be assumed that Prosthecobacter acquired tubulins through horizontal gene transfer. The functional role of tubulins in Prosthecobacter remains enigmatic.
    Molecular Biology and Evolution 08/2007; 24(7):1439-42. · 10.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Lower Kane Cave, Wyoming (USA), has hydrogen sulfide-bearing springs that discharge into the cave passage. The springs and cave stream harbour white filamentous microbial mats dominated by Epsilonproteobacteria. Recently, novel 16S rRNA gene sequences from the phylum Acidobacteria, subgroup 7, were found in these cave mats. Although Acidobacteria are ubiquitously distributed in many terrestrial and marine habitats, little is known about their ecophysiology. To investigate this group in Lower Kane Cave in more detail, a full-cycle rRNA approach was applied based on 16S and 23S rRNA gene clone libraries and the application of novel probes for fluorescence in situ hybridization. The 16S and 23S rRNA gene clone libraries yielded seven and six novel acidobacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) respectively. The majority of the OTUs were affiliated with subgroups 7 and 8. One OTU was affiliated with subgroup 6, and one OTU could not be assigned to any of the present acidobacterial subgroups. Fluorescence in situ hybridization distinguished two morphologically distinct, rod-shaped cells of the acidobacterial subgroups 7 and 8. Although the ecophysiology of Acidobacteria from Lower Kane Cave will not be fully resolved until cultures are obtained, acidobacterial cells were always associated with the potentially chemolithoautotrophic epsilon- or gammaproteobacterial filaments, suggesting perhaps a lifestyle based on heterotrophy or chemoorganotrophy.
    Environmental Microbiology 07/2007; 9(6):1523-34. · 5.76 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Escherichia coli K-12, B, C and W strains are the most frequently used bacterial safety and laboratory strains. Lineage-specific DNA fragments were detected by microplate subtractive hybridization and utilized to create a fast differentiation method using a single PCR reaction to differentiate clearly the four lineages and separate them from pathogenic variants. The method has been evaluated on a comprehensive selection of widely used laboratory strains and a variety of pathogenic E. coli representatives. In addition, in silico analysis on all available E. coli genomes and the genomes of the close relatives Shigella and Salmonella confirmed the reliability of the proposed method. A fast identification and differentiation of E. coli safety strains by Multiplex-PCR is a useful tool for researchers and companies to check and monitor their reference stocks.
    FEMS Microbiology Letters 05/2007; 269(1):36-40. · 2.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tubulins are still considered as typical proteins of Eukaryotes. However, more recently they have been found in the unusual bacteria Prosthecobacter (btubAB). In this study, the genomic organization of the btub-genes and their genomic environment were characterized by using the newly developed Two-Step Gene Walking method. In all investigated Prosthecobacters, btubAB are organized in a typical bacterial operon. Strikingly, all btub-operons comprise a third gene with similarities to kinesin light chain sequences. The genomic environments of the characterized btub-operons are always different. This supports the hypothesis that this group of genes represents an independent functional unit, which was acquired by Prosthecobacter via horizontal gene transfer. The newly developed Two-Step Gene Walking method is based on randomly primed polymerase chain reaction (PCR). It presents a simple workflow, which comprises only two major steps--a Walking-PCR with a single specific outward pointing primer (step 1) and the direct sequencing of its product using a nested specific primer (step 2). Two-Step Gene Walking proved to be highly efficient and was successfully used to characterize over 20 kb of sequence not only in pure culture but even in complex non-pure culture samples.
    Nucleic Acids Research 02/2007; 35(20):e135. · 8.28 Impact Factor
  • Karl-Heinz Schleifer, Ramon Rossello-Mora, Rudolf Amann
    Systematic and Applied Microbiology 02/2006; 29(1):1-2. · 3.29 Impact Factor
  • Rudolf Amann, Karl-Heinz Schleifer
    01/2006: pages 67-82;
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    ABSTRACT: A GFPmut3b-tagged derivative of broad host-range plasmid RP4 was used to monitor the conjugative transfer of the plasmid from a Pseudomonas putida donor strain to indigenous bacteria in activated sludge. Transfer frequencies were determined to be in the range of 4×10−6 to 1×10−5 transconjugants per recipient. In situ hybridisation with fluorescently labeled, rRNA-targeted oligonucleotides was used to phylogenetically affiliate the bacteria that had received the plasmid.
    FEMS Microbiology Letters 01/2006; 174(1):9 - 17. · 2.05 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

5k Citations
184.63 Total Impact Points


  • 2013
    • Ribocon GmbH
      Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 2007–2010
    • Università di Pisa
      • Department of Biology
      Pisa, Tuscany, Italy
  • 1980–2009
    • Technische Universität München
      • • Chair of Technical Microbiology
      • • Department of Microbiology
      München, Bavaria, Germany
  • 2006
    • Universität Stuttgart
      • Institute of Biology
      Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • 1998
    • University of Hamburg
      • Section of Microbiology and Biotechnology
      Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • 1980–1995
    • Deutsches Herzzentrum München
      München, Bavaria, Germany
  • 1967
    • Bavarian School of Public Policy
      München, Bavaria, Germany