, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 87-96

Phylogenetic Diversity of Natural Populations of Ammonia Oxidizers Investigated by Specific PCR Amplification

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The species composition of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in aquatic environments was investigated using PCR primers for 16S rRNA genes to amplify specific subsets of the total ammonia-oxidizer population. The specificity of the amplification reactions was determined using total genomic DNA from known nitrifying strains and non-nitrifying strains identified as having similar rDNA sequences. Specificity of amplification was determined both for direct amplification, using the nitrifier specific primers, and with nested amplification, in which the nitrifier primers were used to reamplify a fragment obtained from direct amplification with Eubacterial universal primers. The present level of specificity allows the distinction between Nitrosomonas europaea, Nitrosomonas sp. (marine) and the other known ammonia-oxidizers in the beta subclass of the Proteobacteria. Using total DNA extracted from natural samples, we used direct amplification to determine presence/absence of different species groups. Species composition was found to differ among depths in vertical profiles of lake samples and among samples and enrichments from various other aquatic environments. Nested PCR yielded several more positive reactions, which implies that nitrifier DNA was present in most samples, but often at very low levels.

Received: 25 September 1995; Revised: 15 January 1996; Accepted: 20 February 1996