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Microb Ecol. 2009 Jul;58(1):75-85. doi: 10.1007/s00248-008-9444-1. Epub 2008 Sep 17.

Contrasting short-term antibiotic effects on respiration and bacterial growth compromises the validity of the selective respiratory inhibition technique to distinguish fungi and bacteria.

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Department of Microbial Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, 223 62 Lund, Sweden.


The selective inhibition (SI) technique has been widely used to resolve fungal and bacterial biomass. By studying bacterial growth (leucine/thymidine incorporation) and respiration simultaneously, this study demonstrates that the inhibitors the SI technique is based on do not efficiently or specifically resolve fungal and bacterial contributions to respiration. At concentrations that completely inhibited bacterial growth, the bactericide streptomycin had no influence on the SI technique's respiration measurement, and complete inhibition of bacterial growth using oxytetracycline resulted in marginal respiration reductions. The fungicides captan and benomyl severely inhibited non-target bacterial growth. Cycloheximide did not reduce bacterial growth at moderate concentrations, but the cycloheximide respiration reduction was no higher in a soil with more fungal biomass, casting doubt on its ability to discriminate fungal respiration contribution. Conclusions regarding bacteria and fungi based on the SI technique using these inhibitors are thus compromised. The inhibition of glucose-activated respiration by the bactericide bronopol appeared to correlate with bacterial growth inhibition, however. Bronopol, combined with growth-based techniques, could aid development of a new framework to resolve decomposer ecology in soil.

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