Size Matters: Dwarf Cells in Soil and Subsurface Terrestrial Environments

  • Thomas L. Kieft


Soils are perhaps the most challenging of natural environments to characterize microbiologically. The difficulties arise from the spatial heterogeneity, temporal variability, and multiphase nature of soil environments, and from the concomitant high diversity of microorganisms, most of which cannot be cultured. While the situation is not unique to soils, the problem is especially acute in soils because the nonculturable (or at least noncultured by current techniques) fraction of the community is generally very large. Comparisons of dilution plate counts of culturable microorganisms with direct microscopic counts of total microorganisms indicate that only 0.001 to 4% of microorganisms in soils can be cultured on organic growth media (32, 50, 142). Information regarding the nature of these uncultivated microbes has come from microscopic studies (e.g., 8), indirect characterization by activity measurements (e.g., 7), and molecular approaches, such as amplification, cloning, and sequencing of genes encoding small subunit RNA genes (e.g., 118).


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© ASM Press, Washington, D.C. 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas L. Kieft
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyNew Mexico Institute of Mining and TechnologySocorroUSA

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