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Microb Ecol. 2004 May;47(4):385-95. Epub 2004 Mar 4.

An evaluation of 18S rDNA approaches for the study of fungal diversity in grassland soils.

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Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3TL, Wales, United Kingdom.


Fungal community structure and diversity in two types of agricultural grassland soil were investigated by amplified 18S ribosomal DNA restriction analysis (ARDRA) and 18S ribosomal DNA sequence analysis. These two grassland sites represent a species-rich old hay meadow and an agriculturally improved site with low floristic diversity. Two primer sets were used in combination to amplify approximately 550 bp of rDNA from three major fungal groups, the zygomycetes, basidiomycetes, and ascomycetes, and clone libraries were created for each site. 18S ARDRA was used to analyze 170 rDNA clones, and three diversity indices were calculated. A small-scale culturing analysis was also carried out and the most common isolates analyzed using ARDRA and sequence analysis. The soil fungal community revealed by the rDNA approaches was significantly different from that produced by this limited culture-based analysis. Twenty-eight soil-derived clones were sequenced, and many represented fungal taxa rarely reported in culture-based studies. The PCR-based techniques detected differences in diversity between the two fungal communities and changes in patterns of dominance that paralleled higher plant diversity. The results suggest that 18S rDNA-based approaches are a useful tool for initial screening of fungal communities, and that they represent a more comprehensive picture of the community than plate culturing.

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