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Direct detection of 16S rRNA in soil extracts by using oligonucleotide microarrays

Small, J., Call, D.R., Brockman, F.J., Straub, T.M., Chandler, D.P.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2001 v.67 no.10 pp. 4708-4716
soil, ribosomal RNA, detection, bacteria, Desulfovibrio desulfuricans, extracts
We report on the development and validation of a simple microarray method for the direct detection of intact 16S rRNA from unpurified soil extracts. Total RNAs from Geobacter chapellei and Desulfovibrio desulfuricans were hybridized to an oligonucleotide array consisting of universal and species-specific 16S rRNA probes. PCR-amplified products from Geobacter and Desulfovibrio were easily and specifically detected under a range of hybridization times, temperatures, and buffers. However, reproducible, specific hybridization and detection of intact rRNA could be accomplished only by using a chaperone-detector probe strategy. With this knowledge, assay conditions were developed for rRNA detection using a 2-h hybridization time at room temperature. Hybridization specificity and signal intensity were enhanced using fragmented RNA. Formamide was required in the hybridization buffer in order to achieve species-specific detection of intact rRNA. With the chaperone detection strategy, we were able to specifically hybridize and detect G. chapellei 16S rRNA directly from a total-RNA soil extract, without further purification or removal of soluble soil constituents. The detection sensitivity for G. chapellei 16S rRNA in soil extracts was at least 0.5 microgram of total RNA, representing approximately 7.5 x 10(6) Geobacter cell equivalents of RNA. These results suggest that it is now possible to apply microarray technology to the direct detection of microorganisms in environmental samples, without using PCR.