Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Crit Rev Microbiol. 2000;26(1):37-57.

Molecular techniques for determining microbial diversity and community structure in natural environments.

Author information

Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology, University of Pretoria, South Africa.


The ability to quantify the number and kinds of microorganisms within a community is fundamental to the understanding of the structure and function of an ecosystem. The simple morphology of most microbes provides few clues for their identification and physiological traits are often ambiguous. In addition, many organisms resist cultivation, which is essential to their characterization. Recombinant DNA techniques have provided a means whereby many of the obstacles associated with cultivation and description can be overcome and subsequently has allowed many new insights into the complexity of natural microbial communities. Molecular approaches based on 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) sequence analysis allow direct investigation of the community structure, diversity, and phylogeny of microorganisms in almost any environment, while quantification of the individual types of microorganisms or entire microbial communities may be addressed by nucleic acid hybridization techniques. Furthermore, the use of fluorescently labeled population-specific rRNA probes allows microscopic examination of individual cells in complex microbial assemblages as well as their interactions in situ. In this review, we discuss strategies for characterizing microbial communities without the need for cultivation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Taylor & Francis
    Loading ...
    Support Center