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Mar Biotechnol (NY). 2012 Jun;14(3):363-81. doi: 10.1007/s10126-011-9420-5. Epub 2011 Nov 30.

Abundance, diversity and activity of sulfate-reducing prokaryotes in heavy metal-contaminated sediment from a salt marsh in the Medway Estuary (UK).

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  • 1Faculté des Sciences, Université de Rouen-CNRS 6143-M2C, Groupe de Microbiologie, Place Emile Blondel, Mont Saint Aignan Cedex 76821, France. laurent.quillet@univ-rouen.fr


We investigated the diversity and activity of sulfate-reducing prokaryotes (SRP) in a 3.5-m sediment core taken from a heavy metal-contaminated site in the Medway Estuary, UK. The abundance of SRPs was quantified by qPCR of the dissimilatory sulfite reductase gene β-subunit (dsrB) and taking into account DNA extraction efficiency. This showed that SRPs were abundant throughout the core with maximum values in the top 50 cm of the sediment core making up 22.4% of the total bacterial community and were 13.6% at 250 cm deep. Gene libraries for dsrA (dissimilatory sulfite reductase α-subunit) were constructed from the heavily contaminated (heavy metals) surface sediment (top 20 cm) and from the less contaminated and sulfate-depleted, deeper zone (250 cm). Certain cloned sequences were similar to dsrA found in members of the Syntrophobacteraceae, Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfovibrionaceae as well as a large fraction (60%) of novel sequences that formed a deep branching dsrA lineage. Phylogenetic analysis of metabolically active SRPs was performed by reverse transcription PCR and single strand conformational polymorphism analysis (RT-PCR-SSCP) of dsrA genes derived from extracted sediment RNA. Subsequent comparative sequence analysis of excised SSCP bands revealed a high transcriptional activity of dsrA belonging to Desulfovibrio species in the surface sediment. These results may suggest that members of the Desulfovibrionaceae are more active than other SRP groups in heavy metal-contaminated surface sediments.

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