Assessment of prokaryote to eukaryote ratios in environmental samples by SSU rDNA length polymorphism

  • Alexander GuhrEmail author
  • Alfons R. Weig
Original Paper


Microbial communities are important regulators of many processes in all ecosystems. Understanding of ecosystem processes requires at least an overview of the involved microorganisms. While in-depth identification of microbial species in environmental samples can be achieved by next generation sequencing, profiling of whole microbial communities can be accomplished via less labour-intensive approaches. Especially automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) are of interest as they are highly specific even at fine scales and widely applicable for environmental samples. Yet, established protocols lack the possibility to compare prokaryotic and eukaryotic communities as different primer sets are necessary. However, shifts in the eukaryote to prokaryote ratio can be a useful indicator for ecosystem processes like decomposition or nutrient cycling. We propose a protocol to analyse prokaryotic and eukaryotic communities using a single primer pair based reaction based on a region with variable length (V4, which is about 180 bp shorter in prokaryotes compared to eukaryotes) in the small ribosomal subunit flanked by two highly conservative regions. Shifts in the prokaryotic and eukaryotic ratio between samples can be reliably detected by fragment length polymorphism analysis as well as sequencing of this region. Together with established approaches such as ARISA or 16S and ITS rDNA sequencing, this can provide a more complex insight into microbial community shifts and ecosystem processes.


ARISA Environmental samples Metagenome sequencing Microbial communities Prokaryotic to eukaryotic ratios 



We thank M. Hochholzer, A. Kirpal, K. Söllner, U. Hell, C. Knaus and J. Kannieß for help with sample preparation and laboratory work.

Author contributions

AG conceived the project. AG and ARW performed the experiments, analysed the data, and prepared the manuscript.


This study was supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Grant (DFG-GU 1818/1-1).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

This article does not include any studies involving human participants or animals.

Supplementary material

10482_2019_1327_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (211 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 210 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Soil Ecology, BayCEERUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  2. 2.Keylab Genomics and Bioinformatics, BayCEERUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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