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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

In-situ enumeration and probing of pyrene-degrading soil bacteria.

Inferences about which microorganisms degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in contaminated soils have largely been obtained using culture-based techniques, despite the low percentage of microorganisms in soil that are believed to be culturable. We used a substrate-responsive direct viable count method to identify and quantify potential polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria in a soil containing petroleum wastes. Bacteria were extracted and their response to substrates determined in the presence of DNA gyrase inhibitors, which cause viable and active cells to elongate. When yeast extract, a widely used carbon source, was added as a growth substrate, together with nalidixic acid, piromidic acid and ciprofloxacin, a significant increase in elongated cells to 47%, 37% and 22%, respectively, was observed within 24 h. With pyrene as the main substrate, 10 mg L(-1) of nalidixic acid or piromidic acid caused 18-22% and 8-12%, respectively, of the cells to elongate within 24 h; whereas the effect of 0.5 mg L(-1) ciprofloxacin was not significant until 53 h later. Enlarged cells were identified and enumerated by fluorescent in situ hybridization, using Alpha-, Beta- and Gammaproteobacteria, and domain Bacteria-specific probes. The Bacteria-specific probe detected 35-71% of the total microorganisms detected by the DNA-binding dye 4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole. Initially, 44%, 13% and 5% of the total bacteria in the soil extract were Alpha-, Beta- and Gammaproteobacteria, respectively. Without pyrene or a gyrase inhibitor, these subgroups decreased to 30% of the total population but were predominant with piromidic acid or unchanged with ciprofloxacin when pyrene was the main substrate. The proportion of elongated Alpha- and Betaproteobacteria (potential pyrene degraders) increased significantly (P<0.05). This approach links phylogenetic information with physiological function in situ without the conventional cultivation of bacteria and can be used to probe and enumerate degradative groups at even a finer level of discrimination.[1]


  1. In-situ enumeration and probing of pyrene-degrading soil bacteria. Jjemba, P.K., Kinkle, B.K., Shann, J.R. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. (2006) [Pubmed]
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