Live reports from the soil grain – the promise and challenge of microbiosensors
Article first published online: 12 AUG 2008
© 2008 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2008 British Ecological Society
Volume 22, Issue 6, pages 983–989, December 2008
How to Cite
Gage, D. J., Herron, P. M., Arango Pinedo, C. and Cardon, Z. G. (2008), Live reports from the soil grain – the promise and challenge of microbiosensors. Functional Ecology, 22: 983–989. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2008.01464.x
- Issue published online: 3 NOV 2008
- Article first published online: 12 AUG 2008
- Received 19 November 2007; accepted 15 July 2008Handling Editor: Josh Schimel
- reporter gene;
- soil microbial ecology
- 1Linking microbial activity with ecosystem function is a continuing goal among ecologists focusing their efforts below ground in terrestrial ecosystems.
- 2Genomic approaches, using DNA and RNA extracted from soil to characterize types of microbes present and genes expressed in soil, are promising, but, the required destructive harvest confounds spatial and temporal information.
- 3Microbiosensors offer a gene-based way to examine microbial perception of, and response to, the soil environment non-destructively, with high spatial and temporal resolution.
- 4In this mini-review, we explore the promise, challenges and tradeoffs associated with the design and deployment of microbiosensors in soil, as well as the interpretation of information derived from them ‘live from the soil grain’. Both the promises and challenges are caused by the facts that: micro-biosensors are living organisms with specific traits; they come from a phylogenetically diverse but restricted subsample of enormous soil microbial diversity; they are responsive to internal and external influences on multiple cellular processes (not just promoter induction); and they become part of food chains in non-sterile soils. We examine each of these characteristics, and associated blessings and curses, in the context of using microbiosensors to explore microbial soil ecology.