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Comparison of rRNA and Polar-Lipid-Derived Fatty Acid Biomarkers for Assessment of ¹³C-Substrate Incorporation by Microorganisms in Marine Sediments

MacGregor, Barbara J., Boschker, Henricus T.S., Amann, Rudolf
Applied and environmental microbiology 2006 v.72 no.8 pp. 5246-5253
acetates, amino acids, bacteria, biomarkers, community structure, ecosystems, fatty acids, glucose, marine sediments, mass spectrometry, microbial growth, oligonucleotide probes, propionates, ribosomal RNA, ribosomes, temperature, North Sea
We determined whether a recently developed method to isolate specific small-subunit (SSU) rRNAs can be used in ¹³C-labeling studies to directly link community structure and function in natural ecosystems. Replicate North Sea sediment cores were incubated at the in situ temperature following addition of ¹³C-labeled acetate, propionate, amino acids, or glucose. Eukaryotic and bacterial SSU rRNAs were separated from total RNA by means of biotin-labeled oligonucleotide probes and streptavidin-coated paramagnetic beads, and the ¹³C content of the isolated rRNA was determined by elemental analysis-isotope ratio mass spectrometry. The SSU rRNA yield with the bead-capture protocol was improved by using helper probes. Incorporation of label into bacterial SSU rRNA was detectable after 2 h of incubation. The labeling was always much greater in bacterial SSU rRNA than in eukaryotic SSU rRNA, suggesting that bacteria were the main consumers of the ¹³C-labeled compounds. Similar results were obtained with the ¹³C-labeled polar-lipid-derived fatty acid (PLFA) approach, except that more label was detected in bacterial PLFA than in bacterial SSU rRNA. This may be attributable to the generally slow growth of sediment microbial populations, which results in low ribosome synthesis rates and relatively few ribosomes per cell. We discuss possible ways to improve the probe-capture protocol and the sensitivity of the ¹³C analysis of the captured SSU rRNA.