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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2014 Oct;90(1):103-14. doi: 10.1111/1574-6941.12376. Epub 2014 Jul 21.

Bacterial and archaeal communities in long-term contaminated surface and subsurface soil evaluated through coextracted RNA and DNA.

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Department of Food and Environmental Sciences, Division of Microbiology and Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.


Soil RNA and DNA were coextracted along a contamination gradient at a landfarming field with aged crude oil contamination to investigate pollution-dependent differences in 16S rRNA and rRNA gene pools. Microbial biomass correlated with nucleic acid yields as well as bacterial community change, indicating that the same factors controlled community size and structure. In surface soil, bacterial community evenness, estimated through length heterogeneity PCR (LH-PCR) fingerprinting, appeared higher for RNA-based than for DNA-based communities. The RNA-based community profiles resembled the DNA-based communities of soil with a lower contamination level. Cloning-based identification of bacterial hydrocarbon-degrading taxa in the RNA pool, representing the viable community with high protein synthesis potential, indicated that decontamination processes still continue. Analyses of archaea revealed that only Thaumarchaeota were present in the aerobic samples, whereas more diverse communities were found in the compacted subsurface soil with more crude oil. For subsurface bacteria, hydrocarbon concentration explained neither the community structure nor the difference between RNA-based and DNA-based communities. However, rRNA of bacterial taxa associated with syntrophic and sulphate-reducing alkane degradation was detected. Although the same prokaryotic taxa were identified in DNA and RNA, comparison of the two nucleic acid pools can aid in the assessment of past and future restoration success.


community fingerprinting; hydrocarbon; rRNA; rRNA gene; soil pollution

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