Roadmap for naming uncultivated Archaea and Bacteria

Murray, A. E., Freudenstein, J., Gribaldo, S., Hatzenpichler, R., Hugenholtz, P., Kampfer, P., Konstantinidis, K. T., Lance, C. E., Papke, R. T., Parks, D. H. (2020). Roadmap for naming uncultivated Archaea and Bacteria. Nature Microbiology, 5, 8, 987-994 DOI: 10.1038/s41564-020-0733-x

The assembly of single-amplified genomes (SAGs) and metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) has led to a surge in genome-based discoveries of members affiliated with Archaea and Bacteria, bringing with it a need to develop guidelines for nomenclature of uncultivated microorganisms. The International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes (ICNP) only recognizes cultures as ‘type material’, thereby preventing the naming of uncultivated organisms. In this Consensus Statement, we propose two potential paths to solve this nomenclatural conundrum. One option is the adoption of previously proposed modifications to the ICNP to recognize DNA sequences as acceptable type material; the other option creates a nomenclatural code for uncultivated Archaea and Bacteria that could eventually be merged with the ICNP in the future. Regardless of the path taken, we believe that action is needed now within the scientific community to develop consistent rules for nomenclature of uncultivated taxa in order to provide clarity and stability, and to effectively communicate microbial diversity.

In this Consensus Statement, the authors discuss the issue of naming uncultivated prokaryotic microorganisms, which currently do not have a formal nomenclature system due to a lack of type material or cultured representatives, and propose two recommendations including the recognition of DNA sequences as type material.

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