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Anaerobe. 2009 Oct;15(5):204-13. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2009.03.005. Epub 2009 Mar 27.

Real-time PCR assays targeting formyltetrahydrofolate synthetase gene to enumerate acetogens in natural and engineered environments.

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Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology, School of Biotechnology, Jiangnan University, Wuxi 214122, People's Republic of China.


Acetogens are ubiquitous in many anaerobic habitats and play a very important role in bioconversion and biodegradation of organic compounds. Methods for rapid detection and quantification of acetogens in different environments are urgently needed to understand the in situ activities in complicated microbial communities. To overcome the limitations of culture-dependent methods and provide enhanced diagnostic tools for determination of the ecological roles of acetogens in different habitats, a quantitative real-time PCR (qrt-PCR) approach targeting functional FTHFS (fhs) gene encoding the formyltetrahydrofolate synthetase was developed. Novel primers flanking the FTHFS fragment were designed and tested. High specificity and sensitivity for estimation of the abundance of acetogens were confirmed analysis of a collection of acetogens, clone libraries and melting curves. The utility of the assay was validated and used in quantifying the FTHFS gene present in different anoxic and oxic habitats, including anoxic and oxic sludges, lake sediment, sewage sullage as well as flooded rice field soils. The abundance of FTHFS gene recovered by fhs1 assay was in the order of magnitude of 10(5) up to 10(7) copies per gram of dry weight sample, and the maximum calculated abundance of acetogens relative to Eubacteria was 0.6-0.9%, confirming the low proportion of acetogens to total bacteria in environments.

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