Journal article

Application of the denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) technique as an efficient diagnostic tool for ciliate communities in soil

Ciliates (or Ciliophora) are ubiquitous organisms which can be widely used as bioindicators in ecosystems exposed to anthropogenic and industrial influences. The evaluation of the environmental impact on soil ciliate communities with methods relying on morphology-based identification may be hampered by the large number of samples usually required for a statistically supported, reliable conclusion. Cultivation-independent molecular-biological diagnostic tools are a promising alternative to greatly simplify and accelerate such studies. In this present work a ciliate-specific fingerprint method based on the amplification of a phylogenetic marker gene (i.e. the 18S ribosomal RNA gene) with subsequent analysis by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) was developed and used to monitor community shifts in a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) polluted soil. The semi-nested approach generated ciliate-specific amplification products from all soil samples and allowed to distinguish community profiles from a PAH-polluted and a non-polluted control soil. Subsequent sequence analysis of excised bands provided evidence that polluted soil samples are dominated by organisms belonging to the class Colpodea. The general DGGE approach presented in this study might thus in principle serve as a fast and reproducible diagnostic tool, complementing and facilitating future ecological and ecotoxicological monitoring of ciliates in polluted habitats. (c) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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