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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2006 Feb;17(1):83-91. Epub 2005 Dec 27.

Linking microbial community structure with function: fluorescence in situ hybridization-microautoradiography and isotope arrays.

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Department of Microbial Ecology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Wien, Austria.


The ecophysiology of microorganisms has been at the heart of microbial ecology since its early days, but only during the past decade have methods become available for cultivation-independent, direct identification of microorganisms in complex communities and for the simultaneous investigation of their activity and substrate uptake patterns. The combination of fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and microautoradiography (MAR) is currently the most widely applied tool for revealing physiological properties of microorganisms in their natural environment with single-cell resolution. For example, this technique has been used in wastewater treatment and marine systems to describe the functional properties of newly discovered species, and to identify microorganisms responsible for key physiological processes. Recently, the scope of FISH-MAR was extended by rendering it quantitative and by combining it with microelectrode measurements or stable isotope probing. Isotope arrays have also been developed that exploit the parallel detection offered by DNA microarrays to measure incorporation of labelled substrate into the rRNA of many community members in a single experiment.

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