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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Aug;75(16):5428-33. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00120-09. Epub 2009 Jun 26.

Assessment of bias associated with incomplete extraction of microbial DNA from soil.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242, USA.


DNA extraction bias is a frequently cited but poorly understood limitation of molecular characterizations of environmental microbial communities. To assess the bias of a commonly used soil DNA extraction kit, we varied the cell lysis protocol and conducted multiple extractions on subsamples of clay, sand, and organic soils. DNA, as well as bacterial and fungal ribosomal gene copies as measured by quantitative PCR, continued to be isolated in successive extractions. When terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism was used, a significant shift in community composition due to extraction bias was detected for bacteria but not for fungi. Pyrosequencing indicated that the relative abundances of sequences from rarely cultivated groups such as Acidobacteria, Gemmatimonades, and Verrucomicrobia were higher in the first extraction than in the sixth but that the reverse was true for Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria. This suggests that the well-known phylum-level bacterial cultivation bias may be partially exaggerated by DNA extraction bias. We conclude that bias can be adequately reduced in many situations by pooling three successive extractions, and additional measures should be considered when divergent soil types are compared or when comprehensive community analysis is necessary.

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