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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1992 Sep;58(9):2717-22.

Detection and enumeration of bacteria in soil by direct DNA extraction and polymerase chain reaction.

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Laboratoire d'Ecologie Microbienne du Sol, URA 1450, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Villerbanne, France.


In order to develop a rapid and specific detection test for bacteria in soil, we improved a method based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Each step of the protocol, including direct lysis of cells, DNA purification, and PCR amplification, was optimized. To increase the efficiency of lysis, a step particularly critical for some microorganisms which resist classical techniques, we used small soil samples (100 mg) and various lytic treatments, including sonication, microwave heating, and thermal shocks. Purification of nucleic acids was achieved by passage through up to three Elutip d columns. Finally, PCR amplifications were optimized via biphasic protocols using booster conditions, lower denaturation temperatures, and addition of formamide. Two microorganisms were used as models: Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which is naturally absent from the soil used and was inoculated to calibrate the validity of the protocol, and Frankia spp., an actinomycete indigenous to the soil used. Specific primers were characterized either in the plasmid-borne vir genes for A. tumefaciens or in the variable regions of the 16S ribosomal gene for Frankia spp. Specific detection of the inoculated A. tumefaciens strain was routinely obtained when inocula ranged from 10(7) to 10(3) cells. Moreover, the strong correlation we observed between the size of the inocula and the results of the PCR reactions permitted assessment of the validity of the protocol in enumerating the number of microbial cells present in a soil sample. This allowed us to estimate the indigenous population of Frankia spp. at 0.2 x 10(5) genomes (i.e., amplifiable target sequences) per g of soil.

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