Quantitative detection of the nosZ gene, encoding nitrous oxide reductase, and comparison of the abundances of 16S rRNA, narG, nirK, and nosZ genes in soils

  • Henry S
  • Bru D
  • Stres B
 et al. 
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Nitrous oxide (N 2 O) is an important greenhouse gas in the troposphere controlling ozone concentration in the stratosphere through nitric oxide production. In order to quantify bacteria capable of N 2 O reduction, we developed a SYBR green quantitative real-time PCR assay targeting the nosZ gene encoding the catalytic subunit of the nitrous oxide reductase. Two independent sets of nosZ primers flanking the nosZ fragment previously used in diversity studies were designed and tested (K. Kloos, A. Mergel, C. Rösch, and H. Bothe, Aust. J. Plant Physiol. 28:991-998, 2001). The utility of these real-time PCR assays was demonstrated by quantifying the nosZ gene present in six different soils. Detection limits were between 10 1 and 10 2 target molecules per reaction for all assays. Sequence analysis of 128 cloned quantitative PCR products confirmed the specificity of the designed primers. The abundance of nosZ genes ranged from 10 5 to 10 7 target copies g ؊1 of dry soil, whereas genes for 16S rRNA were found at 10 8 to 10 9 target copies g ؊1 of dry soil. The abundance of narG and nirK genes was within the upper and lower limits of the 16S rRNA and nosZ gene copy numbers. The two sets of nosZ primers gave similar gene copy numbers for all tested soils. The maximum abundance of nosZ and nirK relative to 16S rRNA was 5 to 6%, confirming the low proportion of denitrifiers to total bacteria in soils. Nitrous oxide (N 2 O), with a global warming potential approx-imately 300 times higher than that of carbon dioxide, is an im-portant greenhouse gas, contributing up to 6% of global warming. N 2 O also participates in depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer through stratospheric nitric oxide (NO) production. At present, the N 2 O concentration in the atmosphere is increasing at a rate of about 0.3% per year. The soil is the dominant source of atmo-spheric nitrous oxide, contributing about 57% (9 Tg year Ϫ1

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