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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1992 Feb;58(2):754-7.

Detection of low numbers of bacterial cells in soils and sediments by polymerase chain reaction.

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  • 1Environmental Analysis and Design, Program in Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine 92717.


Polymerase chain reaction was used to amplify the low copy number of two 16S ribosomal gene fragments from soil and sediment extracts. Total DNA for polymerase chain reaction was extracted from 1 g of seeded or unseeded samples by a rapid freeze-and-thaw method. Amplified DNA fragments can be detected in DNA fractions isolated from seeded soil containing less than 3 Escherichia coli cells and from seeded sediments containing less than 10 cells. This research demonstrated that coupling polymerase chain reaction to direct DNA extraction improves sensitivity by 1 and 2 orders of magnitude for sediments and soils, respectively. This technique could become a powerful tool for genetic ecology studies.

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