Statistical analysis of denaturing gel electrophoresis (DGE) fingerprinting patterns


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Technical developments in molecular biology have found extensive applications in the field of microbial ecology. Among these techniques, fingerprinting methods such as denaturing gel electrophoresis (DGE, including the three options: DGGE, TGGE and TTGE) has been applied to environmental samples over this last decade. Microbial ecologists took advantage of this technique, originally developed for the detection of single mutations, for the analysis of whole bacterial communities. However, until recently, the results of these high quality fingerprinting patterns were restricted to a visual interpretation, neglecting the analytical potential of the method in terms of statistical significance and ecological interpretation. A brief recall is presented here about the principles and limitations of DGE fingerprinting analysis, with an emphasis on the need of standardization of the whole analytical process. The main content focuses on statistical strategies for analysing the gel patterns, from single band examination to the analysis of whole fingerprinting profiles. Applying statistical method make the DGE fingerprinting technique a promising tool. Numerous samples can be analysed simultaneously, permitting the monitoring of microbial communities or simply bacterial groups for which occurrence and relative frequency are affected by any environmental parameter. As previously applied in the fields of plant and animal ecology, the use of statistics provides a significant advantage for the non-ambiguous interpretation of the spatial and temporal functioning of microbial communities.