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Syst Appl Microbiol. 1998 Dec;21(4):579-87.

Analysis of broad-scale differences in microbial community composition of two pristine forest soils.

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  • 1Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Soil Biology, Schlieren, Switzerland.


Broad-scale differences in soil microbial community composition were analyzed in two contrasting soils using DNA reassociation and % G + C profiles for analysis on the community-level, and filter- and whole cell hybridization techniques for a coarse-level characterization of larger phylogenetic groups of bacteria. Reassociation analysis of DNA from bacterial fractions extracted from the organic soil Seim and the mineral soil Hau revealed similar complexity of the communities with 5700 and 4900 different bacterial genomes (g soil [dry wt])-1, respectively. Thermal denaturation studies showed wide % G + C distributions in DNA from bacteria of both soils. Differences in the median % G + C with 55 to 61% for the bacterial community in soil Seim and 61 to 66% for that in soil Hau indicated a higher proportion of bacteria with a high DNA G + C content in soil Hau. In situ hybridization with fluorescent (Cy3-labeled) probes targeting larger phylogenetic groups showed minor differences between both soils, and between direct detection of bacteria in dispersed soil slurries and in bacterial fractions extracted from soils through about 90% of the total bacteria were lost during extraction. In dispersed slurries of both soils, only probes ALF1b, SRB385, and PLA46 hybridized to cells accounting for more than 1% of the DAPI-stained cells, while numbers obtained after hybridization with probes ARCH915, BET42a, GAM42a, HGC69a, and CF319a were below the detection limit set at < 1%. These results were confirmed by in situ hybridization with horseradish peroxidase (HRP)-labeled probes and subsequent Cy3-tyramide signal amplification. In contrast, dot blot hybridization with probe HGC69a indicated significant amounts of Gram-positive bacteria with a high DNA G + C content in both soils. These could subsequently be visualized in non-dispersed soil slurries by in situ hybridization with HRP-labeled probe HGC69a and Cy3-tyramide signal amplification. Filamentous Gram-positive bacteria with a high DNA G + C content, likely actinomycetes, which are present in soil Hau in significant numbers are obviously destroyed by procedures used for soil dispersion.

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