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Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Apr 17;46(8):4340-7. doi: 10.1021/es2040366. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

Application of phylogenetic microarray analysis to discriminate sources of fecal pollution.

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Earth Sciences Division, Berkeley, CA, USA.


Conventional methods for fecal source tracking typically use single biomarkers to systematically identify or exclude sources. High-throughput DNA sequence analysis can potentially identify all sources of microbial contaminants in a single test by measuring the total diversity of fecal microbial communities. In this study, we used phylogenetic microarray analysis to determine the comprehensive suite of bacteria that define major sources of fecal contamination in coastal California. Fecal wastes were collected from 42 different populations of humans, birds, cows, horses, elk, and pinnipeds. We characterized bacterial community composition using a DNA microarray that probes for 16S rRNA genes of 59,316 different bacterial taxa. Cluster analysis revealed strong differences in community composition among fecal wastes from human, birds, pinnipeds, and grazers. Actinobacteria, Bacilli, and many Gammaproteobacteria taxa discriminated birds from mammalian sources. Diverse families within the Clostridia and Bacteroidetes taxa discriminated human wastes, grazers, and pinnipeds from each other. We found 1058 different bacterial taxa that were unique to either human, grazing mammal, or bird fecal wastes. These OTUs can serve as specific identifier taxa for these sources in environmental waters. Two field tests in marine waters demonstrate the capacity of phylogenetic microarray analysis to track multiple sources with one test.

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