, Volume 99, Issue 4, pp 837-844
Date: 15 Feb 2011

Rapid detection and identification of the free-living nitrogen fixing genus Azospirillum by 16S rRNA-gene-targeted genus-specific primers

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The modern agricultural practice utilizing plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) has brought great benefits in the promotion of crop growth. Among PGPR, Azospirillum is considered as an important genus which is not only closely-associated with plants but also shows potential in the degradation of organic contaminants. However, lack of media for selective isolation or techniques for specific detection or identification limit the exploration of these rhizobacteria. This motivated us to design a genus-specific oligonucleotide primer pair which could assist in rapid detection of species of the genus Azospirillum by means of PCR-specific amplification. The sensitivity and specificity of the newly designed primer pair Azo494-F/Azo756-R were tested against 12 Azospirillum type strains and other closely-related genera. The Azospirillum-specific 16S rRNA gene fragment (263 bp) was successfully amplified for all the reference Azospirillum species with the designed primer pair. No amplification was noted for closely-related species from other genera. The genus specificity was validated with 18 strains including environmental isolates. Interestingly, two strains assigned earlier as Azospirillum amazonense (DSM 2787T) and Azospirillum irakense (DSM 11586T) failed to produce an Azospirillum-specific fragment with this primer pair. Further phylogenetic analysis of these two isolates based on 16S rRNA gene sequences shows that these two strains might belong to other genera rather than Azospirillum. Preliminary screening of isolates and soil samples with the Azospirillum-specific primers was successful in terms of the rapid detection of Azospirillum isolates. By using real-time PCR analysis the minimum limit of Azospirillum detection was 102 CFU g−1 in the seeded soil sample. The newly designed primers can be used to study the diversity of Azospirillum in ecosystems and aid in the exploration of novel species.