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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2014 Jun;88(3):538-49. doi: 10.1111/1574-6941.12323. Epub 2014 Apr 7.

Links between sulphur oxidation and sulphur-oxidising bacteria abundance and diversity in soil microcosms based on soxB functional gene analysis.

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Innovative Farm Systems, AgResearch Ltd, Ruakura Research Centre, Hamilton, New Zealand.


Sulphur-oxidising bacteria (SOB) play a key role in the biogeochemical cycling of sulphur in soil ecosystems. However, the ecology of SOB is poorly understood, and there is little knowledge about the taxa capable of sulphur oxidation, their distribution, habitat preferences and ecophysiology. Furthermore, as yet there are no conclusive links between SOB community size or structure and rates of sulphur oxidation. We have developed a molecular approach based on primer design targeting the soxB functional gene of nonfilamentous chemolithotrophic SOB that allows assessment of both abundance and diversity. Cloning and sequencing revealed considerable diversity of known soxB genotypes from agricultural soils and also evidence for previously undescribed taxa. In a microcosm experiment, abundance of soxB genes increased with sulphur oxidation rate in soils amended with elemental sulphur. Addition of elemental sulphur to soil had a significant effect in the soxB gene diversity, with the chemolithotrophic Thiobacillus-like Betaproteobacteria sequences dominating clone libraries 6 days after sulphur application. Using culture-independent methodology, the study provides evidence for links between abundance and diversity of SOB and sulphur oxidation. The methodology provides a new tool for investigation of the ecology and role of SOB in soil sulphur biogeochemistry.


Real-time PCR; Thiobacillus; soil microcosms; soxB; sulphur oxidation; sulphur-oxidising bacteria

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