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Environ Microbiol. 2009 Apr;11(4):960-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2008.01821.x. Epub 2008 Dec 17.

Transcriptional activity of paddy soil bacterial communities.

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Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Karl-von-Frisch-Str., D-35043 Marburg, Germany.


Bulk mRNA was used to explore the transcriptional activity of bacterial communities in oxic versus anoxic paddy soil. Two microbial cDNA libraries were constructed from composite samples using semi-randomly primed RT-PCR. cDNAs averaged 500-600 bp in length and were treated as expressed sequence tags (ESTs). Clustering analysis of 805 random cDNAs resulted in 179 and 155 different ESTs for the oxic and anoxic zones respectively. Using an E-value threshold of e(-10), a total of 218 different ESTs could be assigned by blastx, while 116 ESTs were predicted novel. Both the proportion and significance of the EST assignments increased with cDNA length. Taxonomic assignment was more powerful in discriminating between the aerobic and anaerobic bacterial communities than functional inference, as most ESTs in both oxygen zones were putative indicators of similar housekeeping functions, in particular ABC-type transporters. A few ESTs were putative indicators for community function in a biogeochemical context, such as beta-oxidation of long-chain fatty acids specifically in the oxic zone. Expressed sequence tags assigned to Alpha- and Betaproteobacteria were predominantly found in the oxic zone, while those affiliated with Deltaproteobacteria were more frequently detected in the anoxic zone. At the genus level, multiple assignments to Bradyrhizobium and Geobacter were unique to the oxic and anoxic zones respectively. The phylum-level affiliations of 93 16S rRNA sequences corresponded well with two taxonomically distinct EST patterns. Expressed sequence tags affiliated with Acidobacteria and Chloroflexi were frequently detected in both oxygen zones. In summary, the soil metatranscriptome is accessible for global analysis and such studies have great potential in elucidating the taxonomic and functional status of soil bacterial communities, but study significance depends on the number and length of cDNAs being randomly analysed.

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