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J Microbiol Methods. 2001 Jan;43(3):197-212.

Structural diversity of microorganisms in chemically perturbed soil assessed by molecular and cytochemical approaches.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Silesia, Jagiellońska 28, 40-032, Katowice, Poland.


Until recently, our understanding of microbial community development in soil ecosystems exposed to different inorganic and organic pollutants has been limited to culturable microorganisms because of the techniques available. The discovery that most soil microorganisms are non-culturable but potentially viable and metabolically active accelerated the application of different culture-independent methods for structural diversity assessments of the microbial community. This review examines the results of recent studies on the impact of heavy metals and organic pollutants on the diversity of the microflora obtained with methods based on analyses of signature biomarkers such as nucleic acids and fatty acids. The application of these techniques allowed researchers to pinpoint reduction of microbial diversity in contaminated soil, and significant shifts in the community structure, leading to the dominance of only a few populations (species) and the disappearance of others, some of which were never isolated by conventional methods (e.g. an increase in Acidobacterium or a decrease in terrestrial non-thermophilic Crenarchaeota). Although the new techniques are not free from limitations, they allow the monitoring of the virtual impact of stressors on soil microorganisms and the direction of resuscitation of the microbial community during natural or induced bioremediation, especially when using combined approaches.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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