Nucleic Acids and Proteins in Soil

Volume 8 of the series Soil Biology pp 397-419

Reporter Gene Technology in Soil Ecology; Detection of Bioavailability and Microbial Interactions

  • Mette BurmølleAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Copenhagen
  • , Lars Hestbjerg HansenAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Copenhagen
  • , Søren J. SørensenAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Copenhagen

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17.6 Concluding Remarks

Biosensor technology has expanded much in the past decade. Even though soil is a very complex environment that introduces additional requirements to reporter gene application and detection, many biosensor studies have been performed in soil. Such studies have proven to be excellent tools revealing compounds and conditions to which soil bacteria are exposed, concerning not only presence of toxic compounds, but also nutrient and oxygen status. By evaluating such factors we better understand the bacterial life in the soil environment, which is very difficult or even impossible to obtain by other methods.

Biosensors are ideal for investigating the physiology and gene expression of microorganisms in complex environments like soil, including interactions between different members of the soil community, like tetracycline produced from S. rimosus, nutrients excreted from root tips of plants or bacterial communication.

We have presented several examples of soil studies based on the use of whole-cell biosensors and we believe many more are to come, because reporter genes and detection technologies are in constant development, with some aiming to improve the applicability of whole-cell biosensors in soil. Detection of the presence of multiple compounds in an environment, as sucrose and tryptophan or N, P and C status, can be simplified by use of genes encoding blue, red and yellow fluorescing proteins. As the use of techniques like epi-fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry and confocal scanning laser microscopy is increasing, so is the resolution at which we can analyse microbial ecology in complex environments.