Section 3 update: Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) in microbial ecology

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Studies on microbial communities raise questions about their composition, structure and stability and about the activity and function of their individual members. Traditional microbiological techniques and conventional microscopy are insufficient means to answer these questions. Most of the bacteria in natural samples can not be detected by conventional microscopy, because they adhere to soil and sediment particles and therefore remain ‘invisible’. Fluorescent dyes, such as DAPI or acridine orange, have improved this 6], but yield no information about the species identity. Activity measurements of bacteria in sediments have been performed, but they lack the specificity to discriminate the contributions of different populations. Physiological experiments have been used with great success to characterise isolated species. However, it is now widely recognised among microbiologists that only a small fraction of all naturally occurring bacteria have been isolated and ...