The species composition of culturable bacteria in Scottish grassland soils was investigated using a combination of Biolog and 16S rDNA analysis for characterisation of isolates. The inclusion of a molecular approach allowed direct comparison of sequences from culturable bacteria with sequences obtained during analysis of DNA extracted directly from the same soil samples. Bacterial strains were isolated on Pseudomonas isolation agar (PIA), a selective medium, and on tryptone soya agar (TSA), a general laboratory medium. In total, 12 and 21 morphologically different bacterial cultures were isolated on PIA and TSA, respectively. Biolog and sequencing placed PIA isolates in the same taxonomic groups, the majority of cultures belonging to the Pseudomonas (sensu stricto) group. However, analysis of 16S rDNA sequences proved more efficient than Biolog for characterising TSA isolates due to limitations of the Microlog database for identifying environmental bacteria. In general, 16S rDNA sequences from TSA isolates showed high similarities to cultured species represented in sequence databases, although TSA-8 showed only 92.5% similarity to the nearest relative, Bacillus insolitus. In general, there was very little overlap between the culturable and uncultured bacterial communities, although two sequences, PIA-2 and TSA-13, showed >99% similarity to soil clones. A cloning step was included prior to sequence analysis of two isolates, TSA-5 and TSA-14, and analysis of several clones confirmed that these cultures comprised at least four and three sequence types, respectively. All isolate clones were most closely related to uncultured bacteria, with clone TSA-5.1 showing 99.8% similarity to a sequence amplified directly from the same soil sample. Interestingly, one clone, TSA-5.4, clustered within a novel group comprising only uncultured sequences. This group, which is associated with the novel, deep-branching Acidobacterium capsulatum lineage, also included clones isolated during direct analysis of the same soil and from a wide range of other sample types studied elsewhere. The study demonstrates the value of fine-scale molecular analysis for identification of laboratory isolates and indicates the culturability of approximately 1% of the total population but under a restricted range of media and cultivation conditions.
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