Linking Toluene Degradation with Specific Microbial Populations in Soil


American Society for Microbiology


Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis of a soil microbial community was coupled with 13C isotope tracer analysis to measure the community’s response to addition of 35 μg of [13C]toluene ml of soil solution−1. After 119 h of incubation with toluene, 96% of the incorporated 13C was detected in only 16 of the total 59 PLFAs (27%) extracted from the soil. Of the total 13C-enriched PLFAs, 85% were identical to the PLFAs contained in a toluene-metabolizing bacterium isolated from the same soil. In contrast, the majority of the soil PLFAs (91%) became labeled when the same soil was incubated with [13C]glucose. Our study showed that coupling 13C tracer analysis with PLFA analysis is an effective technique for distinguishing a specific microbial population involved in metabolism of a labeled substrate in complex environments such as soil.

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