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Molecular analysis of methanogenic archaeal communities in managed and natural upland pasture soils

Authors

  • Graeme W. Nicol,

    1. Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, Scotland, UK
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  • L. Anne Glover,

    1. Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, Scotland, UK
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  • James I. Prosser

    1. Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, Scotland, UK
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James I. Prosser, tel. +44 1224 555848, fax +44 1224 555844, e-mail: j.prosser@abdn.ac.uk

Abstract

Grassland management influences soil archaeal communities, which appear to be dominated by nonthermophilic crenarchaeotes. To determine whether methanogenic Archaea associated with the Euryarchaeota lineage are also present in grassland soils, anaerobic microcosms containing both managed (improved) and natural (unimproved) grassland rhizosphere soils were incubated for 28 days to encourage the growth of anaerobic Archaea. The contribution of potential methanogenic organisms to the archaeal community was assessed by the molecular analysis of RNA extracted from soil, using primers targeting all Archaea and Euryarchaeota. Archaeal RT-PCR products were obtained from all anaerobic microcosms. However, euryarchaeal RT-PCR products (of putative methanogen origin) were obtained only from anaerobic microcosms of improved soil, their presence coinciding with detectable methane production. Sequence analysis of excised denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) bands revealed the presence of euryarchaeal organisms that could not be detected before anaerobic enrichment. These data indicate that nonmethanogenic Crenarchaeota dominate archaeal communities in grassland soil and suggest that management practices encourage euryarchaeal methanogenic activity.

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