Ribosomal RNA Analysis of Microorganisms as They Occur in Nature

  • David M. Ward
  • Mary M. Bateson
  • Roland Weller
  • Alyson L. Ruff-Roberts
Part of the Advances in Microbial Ecology book series (AMIE, volume 12)


Advances in molecular biology are now providing the means for solving long-standing problems in microbiology. One of the best examples is the development of a rational approach to the phylogenetic classification of microorganisms, based on comparative analysis of slowly evolving molecular components, most notably ribosomal RNAs (Woese, 1987). Molecular biologists and microbiologists have been quick to recognize how rRNA sequence variation could be used to answer major questions limiting progress in microbial ecology. Only a few years after the initial rRNA-based phylogenetic observations were published (Woese and Fox, 1977), the 16S rRNA molecule was used to characterize Prochloron, an uncultivated symbiont of marine invertebrates (Seewaldt and Stackebrandt, 1982), and the smallest ribosomal RNA molecule, 5S rRNA, was used to analyze the composition of a few simple microbial communities (Stahl et al., 1984, 1985; Lane et al., 1985b). Some further ecologic work with 5S rRNA has appeared (Colwell et al., 1989), but extensive community analysis with this molecule is complicated by the difficulty of physically separating 5S rRNAs, and by the relatively small size and thus limited information content of this molecule. In the last few years, considerable emphasis has been given in both microbial phylogeny and microbial ecology to the development of methods for studying the larger and more informative rRNAs. Most of the work has been with small ribosomal subunit rRNA (SSU rRNA, 16S in prokaryotes and 18S in eukaryotes), though a limited amount of work has been done with the larger rRNAs of large ribosomal subunits (here termed LSU rRNA, 23S in prokaryotes and 28S in eukaryotes) and with internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions separating rRNA genes.


Internal Transcribe Spacer Sequence Type rRNA Sequence Oligonucleotide Probe rRNA Molecule 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. Ward
    • 1
  • Mary M. Bateson
    • 1
  • Roland Weller
    • 1
  • Alyson L. Ruff-Roberts
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA

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