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Methods Enzymol. 2011;496:3-34. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-386489-5.00001-4.

Strategies to determine diversity, growth, and activity of ammonia-oxidizing archaea in soil.

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Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.


Ecological studies of soil microorganisms require reliable techniques for assessment of microbial community composition, abundance, growth, and activity. Soil structure and physicochemical properties seriously limit the applicability and value of methods involving direct observation, and ecological studies have focused on communities and populations, rather than single cells or microcolonies. Although ammonia-oxidizing archaea were discovered 5 years ago, there are still no cultured representatives from soil and there remains a lack of knowledge regarding their genomic composition, physiology, or functional diversity. Despite these limitations, however, significant insights into their distribution, growth characteristics, and metabolism have been made through the use of a range of molecular methodologies. As well as the analysis of taxonomic markers such as 16S rRNA genes, the development of PCR primers based on a limited number of (mostly marine) sequences has enabled the analysis of homologues encoding proteins involved in energy and carbon metabolism. This chapter will highlight the range of molecular methodologies available for examining the diversity, growth, and activity of ammonia-oxidizing archaea in the soil environment.

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