Molecular and functional diversity in soil micro-organisms

  • James I. Prosser
Part of the Developments in Plant and Soil Sciences book series (DPSS, volume 94)


Traditional approaches to the study of microbial diversity have relied on laboratory cultivation of isolates from natural environments and identification by classical techniques, including analysis of morphology, physiological characteristics and biochemical properties. These approaches provide information on fine-scale diversity but suffer from bias, resulting from the media and cultivation conditions employed, and from the inability to grow and isolate significant proportions of natural communities in the laboratory. An alternative approach is the amplification of ribosomal RNA and functional genes from nucleic acids extracted directly from environmental samples, with subsequent analysis by ‘fingerprinting’ methods or by sequencing and phylogenetic analysis. This approach avoids the need for laboratory cultivation and has provided major insights into species and functional diversity of bacterial and archaeal populations. This article reviews molecular approaches to the characterisation of prokaryote diversity in natural environments, their more recent application to fungal diversity and the advantages and limitations of molecular analyses.

Key words

bacteria biodiversity functional diversity fungi molecular ecology ribosomal RNA rRNA soil species diversity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • James I. Prosser
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Molecular and Cell Biology Institute of Medical SciencesUniversity of AberdeenForesterhill, AberdeenUK

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