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nifH gene diversity in the bacterial community associated with the rhizosphere of Molinia coerulea, an oligonitrophilic perennial grass

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*For correspondence. E-mail jerome.hamelin@unine.ch; Tel. (+41) 32 718 22 32; Fax: (+41) 32 718 22 31.

Abstract

Rhizosphere associative dinitrogen fixation could be a valuable source of nitrogen in many nitrogen limited natural ecosystems, such as the rhizosphere of Molinia coerulea, a hemicryptophytic perennial grass naturally occurring in contrasted oligonitrophilic soils. The diversity of the dinitrogen-fixing bacteria associated with this environment was assessed by a cloning–sequencing approach on the nifH gene directly amplified from environmental DNA extracts. Seventy-seven randomly picked clones were analysed. One type of NifH sequence was dominant in both roots and surrounding soil, and represented 56% of all retrieved sequences. This cluster included previously described environmental clones and did not contain any NifH sequences similar to cultivated diazotrophs. The predominance of few NifH sequence types in the roots and the rhizosphere of Molinia coerulea indicate that the plant environment mediates a favourable niche for such dinitrogen-fixing bacteria.

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