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J Microbiol Methods. 2004 Jun;57(3):399-407.

Quantification of a novel group of nitrate-reducing bacteria in the environment by real-time PCR.

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UMR 1229 INRA-Université de Bourgogne, Microbiologie et Géochimie des Sols, 17, rue Sully, B.P. 86510, 21065 Dijon Cedex, France.


Nitrate reduction is performed by phylogenetically diverse bacteria. Analysis of narG (alpha subunit of the membrane bound nitrate reductase) trees constructed using environmental sequences revealed a new cluster that is not related to narG gene from known nitrate-reducing bacteria. In this study, primers targeting this as yet uncultivated nitrate-reducing group were designed and used to develop a real-time SYBR(R) Green PCR assay. The assay was tested with clones from distinct nitrate-reducing groups and applied to various environmental samples. narG copy number was high ranging between 5.08x10(8) and 1.12x10(11) copies per gram of dry weight of environmental sample. Environmental real-time PCR products were cloned and sequenced. Data was used to generate a phylogenetic tree showing that all environmental products belonged to the target group. Moreover, 16S rDNA copy number was quantified in the different environments by real-time PCR using universal primers for Eubacteria. 16S rDNA copy number was similar or slightly higher than that of narG, between 7.12x10(9) and 1.14x10(11) copies per gram of dry weight of environmental sample. Therefore, the yet uncultivated nitrate-reducing group targeted in this study seems to be numerically important in the environment, as revealed by narG high absolute and relative densities across various environments. Further analysis of the density of the nitrate-reducing community as a whole by real-time PCR may provide insights into the correlation between microbial density, diversity and activity.

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