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J Biosci Bioeng. 2000;90(2):148-56.

Terminal restriction pattern analysis of 16S rRNA genes for the characterization of bacterial communities of activated sludge.

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Department of Ecological Engineering, Toyohashi University of Technology, Toyohashi 441-8580, Japan.


A culture-independent molecular technique using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) of 16S rRNA genes was applied to the characterization of bacterial communities of activated sludge taken from different municipal sewage treatment plants. 16S rDNA fragments from the bulk DNA of sludge were amplified by PCR with a Cy5-labeled forward primer corresponding to nucleotide positions 8 to 27 and a reverse primer complementary to positions 907 to 926 in the Escherichia coli numbering system. The 16S rDNAs thus obtained were digested with tetrameric restriction enzymes and analyzed using a Pharmacia automated DNA sequencer. A preliminary study on a model DNA mixture prepared from different bacterial species showed that the fluorescence intensity of terminal fragments (T-RFs) of 16S rDNAs amplified and detected was directly proportional to the 16S rRNA gene copy number rather than the amount of genomic DNA of each species present. 16S rDNA fragments amplified from the sludges and digested with HhaI usually generated at least 60 T-RFs, among which T-RFs of around 208 bp were the most abundant regardless of the time or area sampled. Southern blot hybridization with oligonucleotide probes specific to the 5' terminal regions of the 16S rDNA of different phylogenetic groups indicated that the T-RFs of around 208 bp were derived from members of the beta subclass of the class Proteobacteria. Hybridization with a probe specific to the class Actinobacteria failed to detect any appreciable signal. These results did not agree fully with those obtained by quinone profiling. The usefulness and limitations of the T-RFLP method for monitoring bacterial population dynamics in activated sludge were discussed.

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